Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Actual Ritual Itself

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and today we can move on to other topics  Last time, we discussed how to orient the altar, what needs to go on it, and how to time the conjuration ritual itself.  If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

I’ve now written sixteen posts so far in this series, with about 67,000 words, quotes and images and all, with this being the seventeenth one.  And, just now, we’re finally—finally—getting to the actual ritual portion of DSIC.  To be fair, we did have quite a lot to talk about to get up to this point: what the actual tools and implements specifically called for by DSIC looked like, how to make them, what other stuff we needed, how to prepare ourselves, how to set up our temple space, how to set up the altar of conjuration, and how to time the ritual.  With all that out of the way, we’re now actually ready to discuss the actual ritual format of DSIC.  The format given below is my own personal take on the ritual choreography of DSIC, accounting for magicians, scryers, assistants, and all the things everyone should be doing, how, and when so as to build up to a harmonized performance of the ritual.  Much of this is based on my own experience, with some of it coming from the directions or witnessed implementations of similar Solomonic rituals.

So, let’s get into it.  By this point, we’ve undertaken our preparatory purification period of fasting, abluting, and prayer, our altar has been fully set up with all our supplies and tools at hand, and the awaited day and hour has come.  We will assume the following for the purposes of this post:

  • The conjuration is to call upon the angel Gabriel of the Moon.
  • The conjuration is being performed in an hour of the Moon, with the first prayer begun at the start of that hour of the Moon.
  • The orientation point (the direction the altar is set and to which we face for the conjuration), based on Agrippa’s correspondences from the Scale of Four, will be to the south.
  • The scrying medium to be used is a crystal.
  • The ring, lamen, and wand are all initially placed on the altar of conjuration itself.
  • The right hand will be used for wearing the ring and using the wand.
  • The vessel for incense is placed in a way that may easily be reached from the position of the magician within arm’s length.
  • A book for notes and observations for the conjuration should be present, but kept inside the circle along with pen and ink.
  • We are not using a scryer or any number of other assistants in this conjuration; you, as the magician will be operating alone (but we will make mention of their roles and functions when necessary).
  • We will be taking a full-on formal approach that covers all the necessary instructions, setups, procedures, and the like according to DSIC, Agrippa, and Solomonic literature, not skipping any steps or being casual with any part of the process.

For this post, we’ll be using the actual DSIC text itself and all its Christian prayers, and not any of the variants floating around out there, with only the spelling, punctuation, and phrasing updated for modern English without using the old-style thou/thee/thine/thy pronouns.  Parts that may change in reference to the spirit’s name, nature, related godnames, etc. as well as other changeable aspects of the ritual like the specific scrying medium used, etc. and the like will be in underlined text.  We’ll go over how to adapt the DSIC prayers in non-Christian frameworks in a later post, but for now, let’s stick to the basic DSIC text as written (though updated for readability).

Note that these prayers and instructions are written so as to accommodate any variation on the following, should you choose to depart from the setups and designs and approaches discussed in earlier posts:

  • Having the circle include the altar or exclude it
  • Using an actual table with the table design engraved or written onto it, or a separate piece of equipment that has the design put on top of another surface
  • Having the lamen be a Solomonic pentacle instead of the lamen of the spirit, having the lamen for the spirit with a Solomonic pentacle on the reverse, or wearing a Solomonic pentacle and placing the lamen for the spirit underneath the crystal
  • Using a pedestal to support the crystal on the table or whether the crystal is placed directly on a Table of Practice
  • Any specific design choices made for the pedestal, table, lamens, or wand
  • Placing the vessel for incense on the ground before the altar, off to the side on top of the altar, or behind the crystal on the altar or on the ground, so long as it is easily accessible and reachable
  • Using a proper Liber Spirituum or a regular notebook

Any variation of these above considerations is acceptable for use in this conjuration ritual, as are many other variations besides, I’m sure.

One further note before we get on with the ritual itself: it is absolutely best-practice, recommended, suggested, and urged that the magician learn all these prayers by heart.  They may read off of a script if necessary, and having a copy of such a script is good just in case the magician forgets or slips up on the wording or purpose of something, but it is absolutely the best possible approach for the magician to learn each of these prayers, steps, and routine by heart, forwards and backwards.  The magician should spend as much time as necessary, especially in the preparatory period leading up to the ritual, to review, memorize, and practice the ritual script so that they may execute it easily, correctly, and gracefully without relying on a script.

Pre-Ritual Setup
Begin by performing your usual devotions, supplications, confessions, and any other prayers you routinely or habitually use, or those that you have been reciting every day during the preparatory period; if you’ve been reciting these these while kneeling either in front of the conjuration altar, then do those here, too.  If you’re operating with any assistants, including a scryer, they should recite their own prayers as well.  You, as the magician, should be directly in front of the altar; if operating with a scryer, they should be on your immediate right in front of the altar, and any other assistants should be kneeling behind you.

All those present should have abluted themselves with holy water; if this has not yet been done, do this now.  You as the magician and the scryer, if one is present, should anoint themselves on the forehead and eyelids with holy oil at this point; the assistants, if any are present, may anoint themselves similarly if desired by the magician.  Both the ablution and anointing should be accompanied by appropriate prayers.

Recite any other prayers appropriate to the ritual as desired at this point, including supplications for enhanced visionary skills, protection in the undertaking, invocations of the planet ruling the hour, invocations to the angel of the hour or the genius loci of the time and place the ritual is to be performed, or invocations to one’s holy guardian angel, agathodaimōn, tutelary divinity, or supernatural assistant at this time.

Once any other preliminary prayers have been recited, if any, stand up straight before the altar.  If you’re operating with a scryer, they should remain kneeling on your right, and any other assistants present should remain kneeling where they are behind you.  At this point, if you’re operating with any assistants, only you as the magician should be reciting any prayers aloud, with assistants and scryers staying reverently silent unless directed or bidden to speak.

There should either be self-igniting incense, charcoal, or other fuel present in the incense vessel; if not yet, place it there now but do not light it.

The two candles on the altar should already have been lit from the preparatory period, but if not, light them now.

The altar should additionally contain the lamen, ring, wand, and other implements of conjuration, placed conveniently and respectfully on the altar.

If a veil is present on the altar covering the tools and implements of conjuration, remove it now and put it aside.

Consecration of the Scryer
If you’re operating alone, you may hold the arms out in the orans gesture (basically up and out to the sides with the palms facing upwards or forwards towards the altar), or, better, raise up the left arm in the orans gesture but place the right hand over your heart.  If operating with a scryer, place your right hand either above them or lightly upon their head or back, and your left hand upon your heart.  Recite the following prayer:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that he may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that his spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the words and pronouns used here to refer to the magician (in underlined text) should be modified to account for both (a) whether the magician is operating alone or with a scryer and (b) the gender of the scryer, if present, or the gender of the magician, if a scryer is not present.  This prayer should be used primarily to consecrate the scryer and his/her/their “spiritual eye”, but both the magician and scryer should be similarly consecrated.  Consider the above prayer to be for when the magician operates alone and is male; as an alternative, if the magician operates alone and is female, use the following:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen this Your poor servant, that she may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creature, that her spiritual eye may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

If the magician operates with a scryer, the following prayer instead should be used:

O God, You who are the author of all good things!  I beseech You, strengthen these Your poor servants, that we may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  I beseech You, o Lord, enlighten the dark understanding of Your creatures, that our spiritual eyes may be opened to see and know Your angelic spirits descending here into this crystal.

Note that the word “angelic” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not angelic, e.g. “demonic” if a demon, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, etc.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Consecration of the Crystal
Place your right hand upon the surface of the scrying medium (crystal or whatever else is being used for the ritual) and recite the following prayer:

O inanimate creature of God, be sanctified and consecrated and blessed to this purpose: that no evil phantasy may appear in you, or, if one should gain ingress into you, that they be constrained to speak intelligibly, truly, and without the least ambiguity, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Remove your right hand from the scrying medium, lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the next part of the prayer:

As Your servant standing here before You, o Lord, who desires neither evil treasures, nor injury to his neighbor, nor hurt to any living creature; grant him the power of descrying those celestial spirits and intelligences that may appear in this crystal, and whatever good gifts—whether the power of healing infirmities, or of imbibing wisdom, or discovering any evil likely to afflict any person or family, or any other good gift—You might be pleased to bestow on me.  Enable me, by Your Wisdom and Mercy, to use whatever I may receive to the honor of Your holy Name. Grant this for the sake of Christ, your Son.  Amen.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc.

Consecration of the Circle
Put your ring of Solomon on the little finger of your right hand.

Pick up the lamen/pentacle from the altar and wear it around your neck so that the design of it faces outward and hangs at about mid-chest-height above the sternum or heart.

If there are any extra candles around the scrying medium on the altar to be given as offerings or decoration, light them now.

Pick up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  The scryer and assistants, if any are present, should move to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle clockwise starting from the orientation point, and while tracing it, recite the following:

In the name of the blessed Trinity, I consecrate this piece of ground for our defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Consecration of the Incense
Proceed in front of the altar and light the incense in its vessel.  The incense to be used should be of an appropriate nature for the spirit or to its corresponding planet, or frankincense may be used generally for all spirits if no specific incense is to be used.  If the incense is self-igniting, light that directly but let the flame burn.  If you’re using loose incense, light the charcoal or flame, and let it complete its process of ignition.  Hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the flame, and recite the following:

I conjure you, o creature of fire, by Him who created all things, both in Heaven and Earth and the Sea and in every other place whatsoever, that you cast away every phantasm from you, so that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.

If you’re using self-igniting incense, blow the flame out now; if you’re using loose incense on a brazier with a flame or charcoal, throw that onto the flame.  Once the smoke of the incense begins to rise, whether the incense is self-igniting or otherwise, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the incense issuing smoke, and recite the following:

Bless, o Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that your blessing may fill up the power and virtue of its odors, so that neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into them, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Note that, up until this point, only the first-person singular pronouns (I, my, me) are used in the prayers.  After the consecration of incense in the ritual, continue to use the first-person singular pronouns if you are operating alone, or the first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our) if you are operating in tandem with a scryer or other assistant.  The following prayers after this point assume that you’re operating alone as the magician.  The pronouns that are to be changed, if operating with a scryer or other assistants, will be in bold text in the following prayers.

Conjuration of the Spirit
At this point, check one last time to confirm that the hour is correct for conjuring the desired angel, e.g. that it is indeed the hour of the Moon when conjuring Gabriel of the Moon.  If so, continue the operation.  If it is too early, spend time in further prayer and meditation until the proper time arrives without leaving the circle, continuing to keep further incense burning (with or without reciting the blessing over it, as desired).  Otherwise, if it is too late, abort, as the hour is now wrong for the operation unless you can manage to swap out lamens and any other desired paraphernalia for the spirit in accordance with the proper hour.

If the hour is proper for conjuring the desired spirit, hold the wand in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

In the name of the blessed and holy Trinity, I desire you, o strong mighty angel Gabriel, that if it be the divine Will of Him who is called Tetragrammaton … the Holy God, the Father, that you take upon yourself some shape as best becomes your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine Mercy and Goodness by requesting unlawful knowledge, but that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of His divine Majesty, He who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not Your holy Spirit from me.

O Lord, by Your Name have I called Gabriel; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for Your honor and glory, to whom with You the Son and the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

Note that the divine name “Tetragrammaton” is underlined here, as is the ellipsis that follows it.  Any set of divine names, titles, or references of God may be used here, such as the general and specific names of God as referenced earlier in the first post on the design of the lamen.  Saying “Tetragrammaton” here is sufficient for all general purposes, but one may use a different name specific to the spirit being conjured, or a set of names to ensure the compliance and presence of the spirit.  For example one may use any of the appropriate sets of following names following from Agrippa’s general names and the specific ones (book II, chapter 22), the various qabbalistic names of God for the corresponding sephiroth, or the Islamic names of God associated with the planets from the Shams al-Ma`ārif:

Agrippa Qabbalistic Shams al-Ma`ārif
General El, Elohim, Eloah, Tzabaoth, Elion, Esherehie, Adonai, Yah, Jehovah, Tetragrammaton, Shaddai, Ehevi
Saturn Yah
YHVH Elohim al-Bā`ith (the Raiser)
aṣ-Ṣādiq (the Truthful)
Mawlā al-Mawāli (the Lord of Lords)
Jupiter Heh
El al-Quddūs (the Holy)
al-Mannān (the Benfactor)
ar-Raqīb (the Vigilant)
Mars Yod
Elohim Gibor al-`Azīz (the Powerful)
al-Qāhir (the Victorious)
al-Jabbār (the Strong)
Sun Yod Eloah v’Da`at an-Nūr (the Light)
an-Nāfi` (the Propitious)
al-Fāṭir (the Creator)
Venus Heh
YHVH Tzabaoth ar-Raḥīm (the Merciful)
al-Ḥayy (the Living)
al-Ḥasīb (the Reckoner)
Mercury Vav
Elohim Tzabaoth al-Khabīr (the All-Aware)
al-Wāsi` (the All-Pervading)
al-Ākhir (the Infinite Last)
Moon Heh
Shaddai El Ḥai al-Ḥalīm (the Forebearing)
al-Amān (the Safety)
al-`Alīm (the All-Knowing)

Note that the word “celestial” here may be changed to reflect the nature of the spirit if it’s not celestial, e.g. “angelic” if a true divine archangel above any planet or heaven, “terrestrial” if a spirit of nature or a genius loci, “chthonic” if a subterrestrial or demonic entity, etc. However, even for celestial entities such as planetary angels, while “celestial” works for any spirit that is associated with or drawn from any celestial sphere, this word may be replaced with a more exact adjective, e.g. “lunar” for Gabriel, “mercurial” for Raphael, “saturnine” for Cassiel, “stellar” for Raziel or the angel of any zodiac sign or lunar mansion, and so forth.

Note that the word “crystal” may be changed to reflect the actual scrying medium being used if not a crystal (mirror, vessel of water, etc.).

Note that this conjuration prayers is not necessarily appropriate for all types of spirits.  It is, however, appropriate for most kinds of spirits, especially those of an angelic or celestial nature.  We’ll discuss alternative conjuration prayers for less-than-angelic entities in a future post.

Once these prayers of conjuration have been said, await the presence of the spirit you have called; they should appear more-or-less immediately.  If a scryer is present, the spirit may appear visible to either the magician or the scryer or to both.  So long as the spirit is visible to the magician (if operating alone) or either one or both of the magician or the scryer (if operating with a scryer), then proceed to the Authentication and Oath of the Spirit.  If desired, you may wish to ask “is there a spirit present here?” softly but firmly to confirm; if you feel, perceive, or otherwise receive an affirmative signal, proceed on to the authentication.

If, after a little while, nobody present can see, hear, or in any way sense the presence of the spirit, repeat these sets of conjuration prayers, and wait again.  If, after three times you’ve said these prayers of conjuration and nobody has gotten any signal nor connection nor sign of the presence of the spirit, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit and proceed from there.

Authentication and Oath of the Spirit
Once the presence of a spirit (not necessarily the one you want!) is there, proclaim your thanks for the presence and the ability to perceive it:

O Lord!  I give to You my hearty and sincere thanks for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank You for having permitted Your spirit Gabriel to appear unto me, whom I, by Your Mercy, will interrogate to my further instruction, through Christ.  Amen.

At this point, the magician is to ask the spirit present four questions of authentication to ascertain the true character and nature of the spirit that you have conjured.  Holding the wand in the right hand pointed at the scrying medium, ask the following four questions one-by-one:

  1. In the name of the holy and undefiled Spirit, the Father, the begotten Son, and Holy Ghost who proceeds from both, what is your true name?
  2. What is your office?
  3. What is your true mark that I know you by?
  4. What are the times most agreeable to your nature to hold conference with me?

For Gabriel of the Moon, we would expect answers that are more-or-less in accordance with the following:

  1. “My name is Gabriel, the Strength of God.”
  2. “I am the angel who presides over the sphere of the Moon in the first heaven, Shamayim.”
  3. “This is my seal by which you may know me and call upon me:” (the spirit should visually or perceptibly reveal the same glyph that is used on the lamen)
  4. “The hours in which I may be called are those in which the Moon holds silver sway.”

If the spirit passes those above four questions of authentication, make one final question to confirm the nature of the spirit and receive their oath:

Do you swear by the blood and righteousness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you are truly the spirit as you say you are and that you come to help me as I have called you?

Note that “the spirit” here may be replaced with the specific name of the spirit we expect, e.g. “…that you are truly Gabriel as you say you are”.

If the spirit swears affirmatively, then all the above answers to the questions of authentication should be written down in your book.  Once this is complete, continue on to the Communion with the Spirit.

It is possible that the spirit may give a different answer to #3 (the question about the seal of the spirit) than what is used on the lamen.  If so, then make a note of what that seal is, but immediately proceed to another question, “Do you also respond to the seal shown here?” while holding up or pointing towards the lamen.  If the spirit responds affirmatively, then they pass that question, and you may proceed onto question #4.

It is also possible, as Fr. AC says in GTSC, that the spirit may give lengthy, winding, symbolic, metaphorical, or poetic answers.  So long as they say, show, or reveal something that is in agreement with what you expect to be reasonable, they should be considered acceptable; you may not receive verbal responses!

We’ll discuss in a later post what to do if the spirit turns out to not be the one called upon by failing the expected answers to the questions of authentication, or fails to swear to the magician their honest presence and assistance.  Regardless, suffice it here to say that, should the spirit present not be the one desired or fail to swear to the magician, skip ahead to the Dismissal of the Spirit, but if time and energy permits, instead of continuing to Closing the Ritual, resume the process of conjuration of the spirit once more, starting with the Conjuration of the Spirit; otherwise, proceed to the Closing of the Ritual after the Dismissal of the Spirit.

Communion with the Spirit
At this point, the spirit you’ve conjured is present and the field is open to communing and communicating with them.  Chat with them, learn from them, ask for their help, consecrate talismans, receive initiation or empowerment, and whatever else you wish to do with them at this point.  We’ll go over what you can do here in a later post, but all things done with the spirit should be related or pertinent to the spirit in some way, with nothing unnecessary discussed or engaged in.  If desired, the wand may be put down now at this point where convenient inside the circle.

If operating with a scryer, the scryer should communicate to the magician and assistants whatever it is the spirit says, shows, or does while present.  Only the magician should be asking questions or otherwise directing the spirit; the magician is the one in charge of the ritual, and nothing is to be done unless they consent to it.  If anyone else, including the scryer, has a suggestion or recommendation, they should first respectfully ask the magician whether it may or should be done, and, should they consent to it, the magician will facilitate it with the spirit, with the scryer giving the response.

Notes should be taken throughout this process in your book, including of the spirit’s replies, any visions, any confirmations or denials, and the like.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present; otherwise, you as the magician should do this.

If possible, keep incense burning throughout this process, adding more incense as necessary.  Subsequent recitations of the prayer of the Consecration of the Incense may be performed if desired, but it is not necessary to do so.  This should be the job of an assistant, if any are present, but not the scryer, whose attention should be given to the crystal; otherwise, the magician should do this.

Technically, this may go on for as long as desired or needed, but we’ll take the Arbatel’s instruction from aphorism III.21 here: do not detain them past the end of the (planetary) hour in which you’ve conjured them unless they agree to stay or are otherwise sworn or bound to you.  If using self-igniting incense, so long as the incense isn’t particularly short-lived, this may be used as a sort of “clock” by which you may measure the length of the conjuration; once the self-igniting incense burns out, bring the ritual to an end.

Dismissal of the Spirit
Once you’ve finished communing with the spirit, take up the wand again in the right hand, point the wand at the scrying medium, and recite the following:

O great and mighty spirit Gabriel, inasmuch as you came in peace and in the name of the ever-blessed and righteous Trinity, so too in this name you may depart, and return to me when I call you in His name to whom every knee bows down.  Farewell, o Gabriel!  May peace be between us, through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The spirit should depart the scrying medium, and their presence should no longer perceptibly be felt.  It is normal for some residual resonance or energy to linger, but the spirit should no longer be actively present in the scrying medium or the ritual area anymore at this point.  We will discuss what to do if they choose to not leave in a later post, but for now, we’ll assume that they leave.

Closing the Ritual
Take up the wand with the right hand, proceed to orientation point of the circle, and place the point of the wand on the outermost edge of the circle being used for the conjuration.  Any assistants or scryers should proceed to the innermost part of the circle out of your way.  Trace the circle counterclockwise starting from the orientation point.

Place the wand on the altar as it was at the beginning of the ritual.  Remove the lamen and the ring, then place them back on the altar as they were at the beginning of the ritual.

Proceed directly in front of the altar and kneel before it as you did at the beginning of the ritual; the scryer and assistants, if any are present, should likewise resume their original place and kneel as at the beginning of the ritual.

Lift your arms up in the orans gesture, and recite the following:

To God, the Father, the eternal Spirit, the fountain of Light; the Son; and the Holy Ghost be all honor and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The ritual is officially complete.  All may arise from kneeling at this point, or continue in further prayer and meditation if desired.

Post-Ritual Breakdown
The two consecrated candles on the altar may be left to burn out completely or they may be snuffed out with a candle-snuffer; any other candles burnt to augment the conjuration should be left to burn out completely, as should the incense.

Perform any final cleanup, notetaking, and other finishing tasks as necessary, including disassembling the altar of conjuration if desired, then leave the temple space when all else has been finished.

If you operated alone during the ritual, spend some time in intellectual contemplation and review of the communion and conversation with the spirit in silence, including reviewing any notes that were written down earlier.  If you operated with other people, such as a scryer or assistants, engage in conversation with them about the ritual in a similar way.  Other notes may be taken at this time as well, as desired.  It is good to do this while getting a bite to eat and something to drink to help the body relax and ground down at this time.

Whew. We finally did it, guys; we’ve finally discussed, at length, all the particulars of the actual DSIC ritual itself! But, even if we’ve gotten this far, we still have so much more to talk about.  As mentioned at various places above, there are several other topics to discuss, and we’ll start to tackle those next.

Summer update: Jailbreak the Sacred, the Salem Summer Symposium, and more!

I hope everyone’s been enjoying the Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts that have been going up lately!  There are still a few more to go, but in the meantime, I didn’t want you all to think that I was just relaxing taking a vacation (as much as I might want or need to).  Rather, things have been as busy as ever, between commuting and working and Working and writing and Writing and this and that and the other, and I wanted to take a quick moment to fill you guys in on some of the things that have been happening lately.

First, a few updates about the website structure.  I decided to go through my blog archives and make things a bit easier to navigate for some of the more fun or interesting posts I’ve made, and while there’s too much to outright do a whole highlight reel of posts, I have made a few new pages for ease of navigability and readability, including adding a few goodies to the Rituals pages from old posts that discussed some rituals I apparently forgot about.

  • The About page has been updated with links to all the different categories of posts (which are also accessible on the right side of the blog page, at least while using the desktop view of the website blog).
  • Several new pages have been added to the top navbar:
    • About → Geomancy Posts: an index of all the important posts I’ve done about geomancy, geomantic divination, geomantic magic, geomantic spirituality, and divination generally.
    • About → Post Series: an index of all the different multipart series of posts I’ve written about over the years, with a summary of each series and links to each of the individual posts in each series.
    • Rituals → Candle Blitzkrieg Blessing: a ritual that utterly fills a house or dwelling with divine light for the sake of blessing it.
    • Rituals → Dream Divination Ritual: a ritual to be done while the Moon is in your ninth house for dream divination, lucid dreaming, or other forms of dreamwork.
    • Rituals → Uncrossing of the Mouth: a ritual to uncross, unbind, and free the mouth from any maleficia, cross, or curse that has settled upon it so that you can speak freely and easily once again.
  • The page Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → The Headless Rite has been (finally) updated, with much of the Greek being corrected, a full transcription of the Greek provided, and more information provided on carrying out the ritual itself.

Second, I was on another podcast!  The wonderful, amazing, and handsome astrologer Nate Craddock of Soul Friend Astrology started a podcast earlier this year, Jailbreak the Sacred, where he sits down to talk with leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and activists about the intersection of mainstream religion and alternative spirituality.  After all, as he says, “spirituality in the 21st century is only getting weirder from here on out, and there’s no better time to team up with people who have walked that path before”.  It’s a wonderful and refreshing thing to listen to, and there are some great speakers already in the lineup, and it’s an honor for me to be included among them!  We spent a good hour and more talking about the intersection of my magical and religious practices, what it’s like being an orisha priest in the Afro-Cuban tradition of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, and how that impacts my philosophy, ethics, and morality in how I approach my life and Work.  Head on over to JTS and take a listen!  And, if you use iTunes, be sure to subscribe to JTS through that platform, too!

Also, for his patrons over on Patreon, there’s an extra bonus episode of Nate and I talking about geomancy, where I give a very rough-and-fast explanation of the origins of geomancy, and I read for Nate on the air and give a full explanation of what a geomancy reading with me is like on the spot.  You’ll also be able to listen in on a special prayer I’ve written for divination, what I call the Praise of the Lord of the Unseen, which has hitherto not been published anywhere (yet).  If you’re interested, help Nate with his podcast, pitch in $10 a month, and get access to this and all sorts of other goodies and bonuses Nate has for his subscribers!

Third, I’m really super excited to announce that I will be in Salem, Massachusetts in early-mid August this year to attend, present, do readings, and generally have fun at the Salem Summer Symposium!  This is the first major event of its kind hosted by the good folk at the Cauldron Black, with the main show of events lasting from August 7 through August 11, but with other activities occurring around the city of Salem as early as August 3.  I’ll be teaming up with the wonderful Dr Al Cummins for a Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour on Friday, August 9 from 10am to 12pm, and later on that day I’ll be presenting on my own about my recent development in geomancy-centered theurgical practices from 4pm to 6pm.  Tickets are still available, and I heartily encourage those who are able to attend to do so; there’s a massive list of fascinating talks, presentations, workshops, and other delights for the eyes and heart and mind to partake in, and that’s besides just the social fun to be had in a spot of great renown in old New England!

Last but not least, I mentioned a bit ago that the Russian occult website Teurgia.Org is working on translating some of my writings and works into the Russian language.  They’ve done it again, this time translating my old post on Ancient Words of Power for the Directions (April 2013) into Russian on their website.  If you’re a speaker of Russian, go check it out!

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now.  I hope the weather is treating you all well, and that the upcoming summer solstice (or winter solstice for those in the Southern Hemisphere) is blessed and prosperous for us all!  And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A PGM-Based Jewish Hermetic Prayer of the Patriarchs

It’s fascinating to see what you can find when you dig through your old notes and drafts.  Interesting insights that slipped your mind, funny stories you’d want to tell again, and wonderful accomplishments that remind you of better times and better techniques than what you may have slipped into using.  But, perhaps most fun to find?  Unfinished drafts and projects that you couldn’t finish for one reason or another at the time, but have since come into the right knowledge and tools to do just that.  This post is one such example of that happening, and I’m glad to finally share it with you, dear reader, after so long.

As many of my readers know, the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is such a wonderful collection of texts that have, somehow, miraculously survived to our care in the modern day.  It’s on the same level as the Nag Hammadi Scriptures or the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which focuses instead on the so-called “practical Hermetica”, the spells, rituals, ingredients, and ritual processes of theurgy and thaumaturgy as used by actual living mages and priests from roughly 100 CE to 500 CE, largely residing in that philosophical-academic-spiritual orgiastic environment of Alexandria, Thebes, and other parts of Hellenic Egypt.  It’s important to remember, though, that the PGM isn’t just a single “grimoire”, but rather a collection of smaller grimoires, notes, tablets, and other texts from a variety of magicians that happened to be clustered together under a single volume.  There’s quite a lot of variation in there, and if different entries seem counterintuitive or contradictory to each other, that’s because they are.  It’s not proper to treat the PGM as “a single text”, but rather a collection of numerous texts that happened to be collected over the centuries and only recently compiled into a single volume (specifically, the Betz version of the PGM, though Preisendanz’s texts, volumes one and two, is still considered the earlier and other major version).

Although many of the fun rituals that are more commonly known come from the earlier PGM entries, such as the Headless Rite from PGM V or the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII, the Betz version of the PGM has over 130 sets of PGM texts, including a number of Demotic ones, too.  Not all of them are well-preserved, and some are incredibly fragmented with extensive lacunae, but there are still plenty of gems in some of the lesser-known texts.  One such text is PGM XXIIb.1—26, headlined as the Prayer of Jacob.  The term used for “prayer” in the headline, προσευχή, can also be used to refer to a temple or sanctuary, especially of the Jews, so perhaps a better headline for this might be, if we can be granted a bit of translator’s license here, the “Holiness of Jacob”.  Given its structure and its placement, the attribution is (as it almost always is) spurious, but the fact remains that it’s primarily a Jewish, or at least heavily Judaically-inspired, prayer with some Gnostic elements as well as some elements of Merkabah and Heikhalot literature or proto-literature.

In any case, it’s mostly complete, but isn’t wholly so due to the large number of lacunae.  Most of the lacunae appear in the strings of barbarous words, though when looking at the actual text, the size and location of these lacunae become clearer, offering hints of what may have gone into them.  After all, the whole section is only 26 lines of text long, and the rest of the PGM is replete with invocations, strings of godnames, and a variety of other clues that can help fill in some of the lacunae in the text.  One of my earlier projects from a number of years ago (2013, according to the original draft post) was going to attempt a reconstruction and repair on this entry, but I didn’t really know where to go or how to attempt it, and so I just left it to get buried in the drafts folder.  But now that I’m a little older and a little more comfortable with this project, I want to try tackling it again.

To start with, this is what the original entry looks like in Betz:

O Father of the Patriarchs, Father of the All, Father of the [cosmic] power,
[Creator of all], … , creator of the angels and archangels, creator of the [saving] names!

I invoke you, Father of all powers, Father of the entire [cosmos] and of all creation inhabited and uninhabited, to whom the [cherubim] are subjected [who] favored Abraham by [giving the] kingdom [to him] … hear me, O God of the powers, o [God] of angels [and] archangels, [King]…

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ … ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ ΑΧΑΒΟΛ … Ο … ΥΡΑΜ ΤΟΥ … ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ … Θ … ΡΑ … ΧΑΧ ΜΑΡΙΡΟΚ … ΥΡΑΜ … ΙΘΘ ΣΕΣΟΙΚ, he who sits upon [holy] Mount Sinai;
… Ι … ΒΟ … ΑΘΕΜ … , he who sits upon the sea;
… ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ … ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … , he who sits upon the serpentine gods;
The [god who sits upon the] Sun, ΙΑΩ, he who sits [upon] … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ!
He [who sits] upon the … ;
[He who sits upon] the … ΜΑ … ΣΙ, ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΛΗΛ … Μ!
… ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι … resting place of the cherubim
to the ages of ages, God ΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ [ΣΑΒΑΩΘ] ΑΔΩΝΑΙ star … and ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ the Lord of the All.

I call upon you who give power [over] the Abyss [to those] above, to those below, and to those under the earth; hear the one who has [this] prayer, O Lord God of the Hebrews, ΕΠΑΓΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, of whom is [the] eternal power, ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel and from those who have been favored by you, O god of gods, you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ … Ι … Χ, O god of gods, amen, amen!

You who produce the snow, who presides over the stars,  who live beyond the ages, who constantly traverse the cosmos, and who cause the fixed and movable stars to pursue all things by your creative activity, fill me with wisdom.  Strengthen me, Master!  Fill my heart with good, Master, as a terrestrial angel, as one who has become immortal, as one who has received this gift from you, amen, amen!

This entry, further, is ended with a single direction: recite it seven times facing north and east.  I interpret this as meaning northeast, which would have been the direction of Jerusalem (or other places in Israel) from most places in Egypt, but there are other rituals in the PGM and other texts of that time like the Sepher haRazim that discuss how to conjure or pray to the powers of the Sun towards the East in the daytime or towards the North at nighttime, so it could be a synthesis of that, too.  I lean towards the Jerusalem theory, personally.

For reference, here’s the original Greek transcription as given in Preisendanz, taking his corrections and emendations as a given and putting the barbarous words and godnames, or the letters that are presumed to be parts of such, in capital letters:

Προσευχὴ Ἰακώβ.

Πάτερ πατριὰρχῶν, πατὴρ ὅλων, πατὴρ δυνάμεων τοῦ κόσμου, κτίστα παντὸς …
κτίστα τῶν ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, ὁ κτίστης ὀνομάτων σωτηρικῶν
καλῶ σε, πατέρα τῶν ὅλων δυνάμεων, πατέρα τοῦ ἄπαντος κόσμου και τῆς
ὅλης γενέσεως καὶ οἰκοθμένης καὶ ἀοικήτου, ᾡ ὑπεσταλμένοι οἱ χερουβίν, ὅς
ἐχαρίσατο Ἀβραὰμ ἐν τῷ δοῦναι τὴν βασιλείαν αὐρῷ
ἐπακοθσόν μοι, ὁ θεὸς τῶν δυνὰμεων, ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, βασιλεύς …
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰεροῦ Σιναΐου Ι … ΒΟ ΑΘΕΜ
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης … ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … ό καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῶν δρακοντείων θεῶν, ὀ θεὸς καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ
Ἡλίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ … θε …
… ΜΑ … ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ … Μ … τὸν κοιτῶνα χερουβὶν … ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι …
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰῶνων θεὸς ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, ἀστραπηφόρε
καὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ, ὁ κύριος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐπὶ χάσματος δὸντα
δύναμιν τοῖς ἄνω καὶ τοῖς κάτω καὶ τοῖς ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς. Ἐπὰκοθσον τῷ ἔχοντι τὴν
εὐχήν, ὁ κύριος θεὸς τῶν Ἑβραίνων, ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, οὗ ἡ ἀέναος δύναμισ, ΕΛΩΗΛ
ΣΟΥΗΛ. Διόρθωσον τὸν ἔχοντα τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξ τοῦ γένους Ἰσραὴλ καὶ τῶν
χαριζομένων ὑπό σοθ, θεὲ θεῶν, ὁ ἔχων τὸ κρυπτὸν ὄνομα ΣΑΒΑΩΘ
… Ι … Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς
ἀπλανεῖς καί πλανωμένους ἀστέρας διώκειν τὰ πάντα τῇ σῇ δημι-
-οθργίᾳ. Πλήρωσόν με σοφίας, δυνάμωσόν με, δέσποτα, μέστωσόν μου,
τὴν καρδίαν ἀγαθῶν, δέσποτα, ὡς ἄγγελον ἐπίγειον, ὡς ἀθάνατον
γενὰμενον, ὡς τὸ δῶρον τὸ ἀπὸ σοῦ δεξάμενον, ἀμήν, ἀμήν.

Λέγε ἐπτάκις πρὸς ἄπρκτον καὶ ἀπηλιὼτην τὴν προσευχήν τοῦ Ἰακώβ.

Happily, at least this part of PGM XXIIb (P. 13895 in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin) has been digitized, but between the lacunae and the faintness of the ink in places, it’s still awfully hard to read, even if we can get a sense for how long some of the barbarous words should be.

We can kind of get a notion for how many letters are missing from the lacunae, based on the width of the letters generally in this otherwise cleanly-written papyrus, as well as some of the other notable gaps, but it also makes it clear how much of Preisendanz guessed at some of the barbarous words, too.  Incorporating Preisendanz’ bracket and blank notations and comparing with the above, we get something like this for the parts that really catch our interest for the lacunae, where the underscores indicate the relative amount of letters that are missing which may or may not be barbarous words:

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ____ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ__ΑΧΑΒΟΛ [Ω]_______[ΥΡΑ]Μ ΤΟΥ___ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ__________
Θ__ΡΑ_______ΧΑΧ.  ΜΑΡΙΟ[Κ]____ΥΡΑΜ_________ΙΘ Θ_______ΣΕΣΟΙΚ________
ὀ κ[α]θ[ήμενος] ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰ[εροῦ Σ]ιναΐου_________Ι_ΒΟ______ΑΘΕΜ__________
[ὀ] καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θα[λάσσ]ης _ΕΑ___ΒΛ______Δ_Κ________Ε_ΘΗΣ_________
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ_ ό καθήμενο[ς ἐπὶ] τῶν δ[ρα]κοντ[είων] θεῶν, ὀ [θεὸς καθήμε]ν[ο]ς [ἐπὶ τοῦ]
[Ἡ]λίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμε[νος ἐπὶ]_____ΤΑ_Ω_Ι___Χ, ὁ [καθήμ]εν[ος ἐπὶ τοῦ]__θε____
__ΜΑ__ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ_____Μ__[τ]ὸν [κ]οιτῶνα χε[ρο]υ[β]ὶν____ΧΙΡΕ___ΟΖ_______Ι _

[κ]αὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ [Α]ΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ, ὁ κ[ύρ]ιος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐ[πὶ χ]άσ[μα]τος δὸντα

_Ι_Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς

My original goal, a few years ago, was to try to see what barbarous words would fill in these gaps through a combination of comparative analysis between this and other PGM entries, as well as through straight-up divination and trancework. But I realized, after looking at these lacunae, that it’s not possible to figure out what might just be a barbarous word and what actually might be legitimate Greek, and Lord knows my Greek is awful at best.  Some of the natural impulses I have, like replacing ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ with ΧΑΧΒΑΡΑΩΘ by adding in a few letters (in bold) to make it sound fairly appropriate based on what we see elsewhere in the PGM, make sense, but then there are others that just wouldn’t go along with that, or where there’s just not enough available to sensibly reconstruct, especially when we don’t know whether, for instance, ΚΑ__________ (in the first line) is a barbarous word (it probably is!) or one of the almost 5000 Greek words (according to Perseus-Tufts) that start with kappa-alpha.  My original approach just wasn’t going to work in any way I was going to be comfortable with or competent at, which is why I put this project off for so long.

Skip ahead a few years.  This prayer caught my attention again, so I decided to do some actual research in academic literature about it to see what might turn up.  As it turns out, there’s a bit of commentary here and there about this particular entry of the PGM, and of them, that in Pieter W. van der Horst and Judith H. Newman’s Early Jewish Prayers in Greek is an excellent one, especially about the purpose of this prayer:

“As one who has become immortal”: Goodenough assumed that the reciter of the prayer becomes angelic and immortal as a result of  saying the prayer: “Through knowing it and using it, the devotee has become an angel upon earth, an immortal, and has received the final ‘gift,’ which would seem to be the supreme mystical gift, participation in divinity.” Goodenough’s phrase “participation in divinity” begs the question of what that experience would mean exactly in the context of this prayer and cannot be answered on the basis of this prayer alone but rather within the context of angelic transformation within the Jewish and Graeco-Roman traditions. …

The final line of the prayer contains instructions to recite the prayer seven times. The number seven was of course of symbolic importance. The final line is governed by aorist middle participles which agree with the aorist imperatives. This would indicate that at the moment God fills the petitioner with wisdom, empowerment, and good, he or she becomes an angel and receives these as God’s gift. Some ambiguity remains as to when the transformation was thought to occur, whether it is during the process of repetition that the reciter is transformed into an immortal angel or if the one offering the prayer must wait until the seventh round of repetition and thus the ritual is entirely complete. The directions of north and east suggested by the rubric are understood by Reimund Leicht to be a “clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios-Yao-Yaoil at night,” but this is a problematic claim because our prayer is addressed not to Helios-Yao, but to the God of Israel who is enthroned above Helios-Yao.

There’s also a wonderful paper by Reimund Leicht on the entry, too: Qedushah and Prayer to Helios: A New Hebrew Version of an Apocryphal Prayer of Jacob.  Although Leicht is concerned with a different “Prayer of Jacob”, he touches on this one from the PGM, too, and compares it to other entries in the PGM as well as to other prayers from the Jewish and Christian traditions much later:

In this point, our Prayer of Jacob is very similar to the PGM Prayer of Jacob (PGM XIIb). Although both texts largely differ, they have crucial elements in common: Both are prayers directed to Yaô, the creator of the world, and both adapt motifs of the celestial throne with the cherubim (PGM XXIIb 8). The two sentences “(You who) give power ov[er (the) cha]sm (to those) above and those below and those under the earth” and “[He] who is upon (the) stars abo[v]e (the) ages” remind us of the adaptation of Is 6:3 in 2:20 (fol. 2a/13 f.). Finally, the request for “wisdom” (XXIIb 17) is not very far removed from our Prayer of Jacob. The instruction to “say the prayer of Jacob seven times to (the) North and East” (PGM XIIb 20) is a clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios- Yao-Yaôil at night.*  These similarities are certainly not sufficient proof of a direct dependency, but they can be taken as hints that the two prayers may be rather remote relatives.

* The North is the place where the sun is at night and in the East it rises.  For an invocation of Helios at night from the North cf. Sefer ha-Razim IV/43; for an invocation of the sun from the East cf. PGM XIII 254.

So, we have this wonderful little prayer that, although the majority of it is there, there are some gaps that make it just barely unfit for use.  That’s where looking at other entries from the PGM comes in.  Although the Prayer of Jacob might be unique in the PGM, some of its phrasing, barbarous words, invocations, and supplications are not, and we can find some strikingly similar examples in other parts of the PGM and other texts:

  • PGM XXXV.1—42: another Judiacally-inspired prayer, addressed to God or an agent/angel of God for power and favor, notable for its similar list of “who sit over…” attributions
  • PGM V.459—489: “Another way” to “loosen shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams, [and is] a spell for gaining favor”.  Again, with heavy Jewish influences, including the barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, which can be easily read as Hebrew for “Blessed be my Lord, the God of Abraham” (“barukh ‘Adonai, ‘Eloah ‘Abraham”).
  • PGM IV.1227—1264: “Excellent rite for driving out daimons”, another Judaically-influenced but also Christianically-influenced prayer of exorcism, with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, along with the Christian Trinity.
  • PGM XII.270—350: “A Ring, a little ring for success and favor and victory”.  A ring consecration ritual with a lengthy prayer including a long string of barbarous words with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though this shows far more Egyptian influence than anything else.
  • PGM III.1—164: “The ritual of the cat”, a lengthy and highly syncretic quasi-grimoire with some Jewish and Abrahamic elements.

Based on these texts, what I did was basically synthesize parts of them together, using the incomplete Prayer of Jacob as given in PGM XXIIb as a base, and overlaying it with parts from other prayers that fit well, especially those with similar purposes as the Prayer of Jacob.  After a few rewrites, reorganizations, and slight additions to the text for flow and content, what we end up with is a new prayer.  As a result, however, due to how badly preserved the barbarous words are from the original text, sometimes I went with replacing them entirely from another source rather than trying to see what might fit in the right places.   Now, I’m not exactly a fan of swapping out one set of barbarous words for another—Tobias over at Sublunar Space and I have discussed doing that and how it can lead to some disastrous consequences—but some of these entries are so similar to the Prayer of Jacob in approach and style that I think we can do so safely here, so long as we’re smart about it.

However, there’s a weirdness here; in all the texts that have a similar list of barbarous words, or a similar arrangement of qualities such as “you who sit upon X”, including PGM XXXV.1—42 and the Beirut phylactery for Alexandra daughter of Zoē (cf. D. R. Jordan, “A New Reading of a Phylactery from Beirut”, ZPE 88, 1991, pp.61-69), it would seem like these refer to different spirits or angels of particular things rather than attributes of God, yet the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb treats them as just that: attributes and names of God.  There’s definitely a tradition of prayers going on here, but it would seem that the Prayer of Jacob is an outlier in how it treats these lists of names and dominions.  That said, when we read “you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ”, with ΣΑΒΑΩΘ being a rendition of Hebrew Ṣabaot or “Hosts” referring to the innumerable angels…well, it kinda makes sense, either which way, at least to the mind of the practical Hermeticists of the PGM.  The fact that the same structure and form of prayer is present in a number of unrelated sources is significant, but equally so is the vast disparity between the divine names used.  It’s my hunch that the names are less important than the structure, and as such, the sets of names can largely be interchangeable with each other.  It’s not an ideal situation, but it does allow us some wiggle room for experimentation, and given that the barbarous words are so incomplete and damaged in PGM XXIIb, we can’t really use them anyway—but I claim that we can use those from near-identical prayers elsewhere with as good a result.

As a result of all the above and my own tweaks, I won’t call what I ended up with a “Reconstructed Prayer of Jacob” like I originally intended, because what was “reconstructed” is so different from PGM XXIIb.1—26 to the point where I can’t honestly say that it’s a reconstruction.  However, the underlying text, organization, and purpose of the prayer is identical, so what I’ll call it instead is the “Prayer of the Patriarchs”, a Jewish-Gnostic Hermetic prayer with notions of solar piety that seeks for incarnate divinization of the self as a theurgical practice in line with the Jewish mystical practices of Merkabah and Heikhalot:

In the name of ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ who is above all the heavens!
I call on you who sit in the first heaven, ΜΑΡΜΑΡ
I call on you who sit in the second heaven, ΡΑΦΑΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the third heaven, ΣΟΥΡΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the fourth heaven, ΙΦΙΑΦ
I call on you who sit in the fifth heaven, ΠΙΤΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the sixth heaven, ΜΟΥΡΙΑΘΑ
I call on you who sit in the seventh heaven, ΚΑΧΘ
by the power of ΙΑΩ, by the strength of ΣΑΒΑΩΘ,
by the garment of ΕΛΟΗ, by the might of ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, by the crown of ΕΙΛΩΕΙΝ!
Protect me from every daimōn and every power of daimones and from daimonia and from all pharmaka and katadesmoi!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven, ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ
O Possessor of righteousness, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ
O Ruler of nature, ΣΑΝΚΑΝΘΑΡΑ
O Origin of the heavens, ΣΑΤΡΑΠΕΡΚΜΗΦ
You who sit upon the holy mount, ΣΙΝΑΙ
you who sit upon the snow, ΤΕΛΖΗ
you who sit upon the sea, ΕΔΑΝΩΘ
you who sit upon the serpents, ΣΑΕΣΕΧΕΛ
you who sit upon the Sun, ΙΑΩ
you who sit upon the Abyss, ΒΥΘΑΘ
you who sit upon the rivers, ΤΑΒΙΥΜ
you who are ΒΙΜΑΔΑΜ who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriēl and Lūēl;
you who are ΧΑΔΡΙΥΜ who sit in the midst of ΧΑΔΡΑΛΛΟΥ upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord ΣΑΡΑΧΑΗΛ of Bil`ām,
the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it,
the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, God who is God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of ‘Adam, o God of Shet, o God of ‘Enosh,
o God of Qeynan, o God of Mahalal’el, o God of Yared,
o God of Ḥanokh, of God of Metushelaḥ, o God of Lemekh, o God of Noaḥ,
o God of ‘Abraham, o God of Yiṣḥaq, o God of Ya`aqob, o God of gods,
you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!

And, as an alternative, another version that omits the barbarous words entirely, replaces some of the more obscure magical terms with more common ones, and uses the more common English spellings of the Hebrew names used in the prayer:

In the name of the Eternal Light who is above all the heavens,
I call on you, angels of the seven heavens,
by the power of God,
by the strength of God,
by the garment of God,
by the might of God,
by the crown of God!
Protect me from every spirit, every power, every phenomenon, every spell, and every curse!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven!
O Possessor of righteousness!
O gracious God!
O Ruler of nature!
O Origin of the heavens!
You who sit upon the holy mount,
you who sit upon the snow,
you who sit upon the sea,
you who sit upon the serpents,
you who sit upon the Sun,
you who sit upon the Abyss,
you who sit upon the rivers,
you who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriel and Luel;
you who sit upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you in the midst of your glory,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord of Balaam, the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it, the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, o God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, o God who is the God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of Adam, o God of Seth, o God of Enosh,
o God of Kenan, o God of Mahalalel, o God of Jared,
o God of Enoch, of God of Methushelah, o God of Lamech, o God of Noah,
o God of Abraham, o God of Isaac, o God of Jacob, o God of gods!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!

Most of the changes, especially in the barbarous names, come from other PGM sources; while the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb is the most important part of the Prayer of the Patriarchs, the initial invocation of the angels of the seven heavens came from PGM XXXV and the Beirut phylactery (the PGM section in question lacks an angel for the seventh heaven), and the godnames preceding the “You who sit over…” invocations came from PGM XII.  Besides those, the only other major structural change is the addition of the full lineage of pre-Flood Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, then ending with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I personally like doing this, because it implies a descent of divinity and spiritual heritage from the first man down to the forebears and founders of the Israelites and Jewish people.  Although none of this is in the Prayer of Jacob proper (I mean, if it was said by Jacob, then we wouldn’t expect to find his own name used in his own prayer praisingly), we do see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob put together in other sections of the PGM.  By throwing in the pre-Flood Patriarchs, I though I would be able to tap more into the raw divinity that they had from a time immemorial.  Additionally, from PGM XXXV.1—42, I also added in the prophet Balaam, a contemporary of Moses and the only non-Israelite prophet in the Old Testament.  The inclusion of Balaam is significant, because God made Balaam, a non-Israelite and thus not one of his chosen people, a prophet so that the non-Israelites couldn’t say “if only we had our own Moses, we would be as pious as the Israelites”; more than that, Balaam was blessed with the gift to know the exact moment God became angry or wroth, a deep and emotional intimacy which no other prophet or creature was given.  By including Balaam among the patriarchs here, we’re able to include Jewish heritage as well as non-Jewish heritage, giving us a bit more wiggle room for those who aren’t Jewish or even Noahide in their lifestyle.

Still, there are a few other changes I made here and there, and there’s one interesting bit in the original phrasing that I intentionally changed.  Betz has one of the supplications as “Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel”, which I changed to “rectify the one who gives unto you this prayer”.  There are three things going on here:

  • I changed “who is from the stock of Israel” to “who is of your people”, making the prayer a bit more general for people who aren’t of Jewish descent to use while still establishing the mage as a person of God, godly in his works and faith, regardless of their Jewish birth heritage in favor of their Hermetic spiritual inheritance.  However, for mages who actually are Jewish, I would recommend the original phrasing instead of my correction.
  • I changed “who possesses this prayer” to “who gives unto you this prayer”.  The Betz translation, taking a cue from Preisendanz, would suggest that this whole prayer might not be recited at all, but instead written as an amulet like many of the other charms and ritual apparatuses of the PGM, but this goes against the ritual instructions at the end of this part of PGM XXIIb, so I don’t think it’s meant to be written and carried around (though doing so wouldn’t hurt, if you were to go the extra mile).  One alternative is to write down the first two paragraphs of the prayer as an amulet, while reciting the rest; that might be one possible breakdown, though I think it’s still better to recite the whole thing, with “possession” here meant metaphorically rather than literally.
  • Really interesting here is the use of the word “maintain” here, which in Greek is διόρθωσον, the aorist imperative form of διορθόω, which literally means “make straight”, in the sense of correction, revision, amending someone, reconciling, redeeming, or restoring to order.  The word has a medical connotation, too, of setting broken bones back in place, as noted by Phillip J. Long over at Reading Acts.  Instead of using “maintain” which doesn’t really have many of those connotations, I opted for “rectify”, which literally means “make right” or “make straight”, and gives more of those connotations of διορθόω.

Then there are the barbarous names ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ and ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Though I’m not in the habit of leaving out barbarous words, I did I just that here, rendering them instead as “God glorious unto the ages of ages” and “God who is God of all gods”, respectively.  Though these can definitely be left as barbarous words, I think these ones can actually be translated.  As to how I translated them and why:

  • ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ: There are a few Greek words that start with έπαγα- that all have to do with glory, exulting, or dignity, and I think this might be a synthesis of a Greek word with the Hebrew godname ‘El, literally “glorious ‘El” or “glorious God”.  ΑΛΑΜΝ, on the other hand, is strange, but van der Horst and Newman in their commentary on this prayer instead read its as “ALAMAN”, which they consider to be a corruption of Hebrew “`olam” or “`olamim”.  This word is common in the berakhot of Jewish practice, where every blessing begins “barukh atah ‘Adonai ‘Eloheinu, melekh ha-`olam…” or “blessed are you, my Lord, our God, king of the world…” or, alternatively, “…sovereign of the universe…” or even “…ruler of the cosmos…”.  However, in its plural form, `olamim can also mean “eternal” or, more poetically, “ages of ages”, and van der Horst and Newman note that ‘El `Olam would mean “God of Eternity”, suggesting also that we should read this as ΕΠΑΓΑ ΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΑΝ.  Thus, I translated these divine names as “God glorious unto the ages of ages”.
  • ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ: Unfortunately, I’m not as clean here as with the above names, but I don’t want to read them as barbarous words, either.  If we break this up into ΗΛ Ο ΗΛ ΣΟΥ ΗΛ, then we could read it as “God, the God, your God” or “God, the God of you, God”.  ΗΛΟΗΛ is a weird theophoric name; although well-formed, like Μιχαηλ or Σαμουηλ, we don’t often see two divine elements put together, especially the same element, in the same name.  If we break this up into several words, then we can get a reasonable Greek construction: Ἠλ ὁ Ἠλ, literally “God, the God”.  Likewise, we can break up ΣΟΥΗΛ into σου Ἠλ, the second person singular genitive pronoun (i.e. “your”) and God.  It all comes together as “God, the God of you, God”, which implies a divinity-within-divinity or divinity-upon-divinity.  For clarity, and to imply a kind of hierarchy, I’m translating these as “God who is God of all gods”.  It’s not an exact translation, but I’m comfortable in its meaning.

And one more note: the barbarous word ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ used at the start of the prayer is rendered as “Eternal Light” in the version without barbarous words.  This is due to rendering the word as Hebrew “shemesh `olam”, or “sun of the world” or “sun of eternity”.  This is translated as “Eternal Light” to avoid too heliocentric a focus of the prayer, despite the Prayer of Jacob’s and related prayers’ heliocentric theurgical focus, but bears an equivalent meaning.  This isn’t really used in any of the source texts I was working with, but it’s a word I like using with a beautiful and appropriate meaning, so I used it in a place that seemed useful for it.

And…that’s it.  This is a project that was delayed for almost six years, but I’m glad to finally remove that entry from my post drafts folder, and to present it publicly.  Now to say it seven times facing northeast.  (Or whatever direction faces Jerusalem, I suppose.)

On Banishing, and an Angelic Banishing Ritual

I have to say, Curious Cat is a blast, you guys.  While I’ve been on Twitter since I graduated college in 2010, and though it’s always fun (and sometimes hilariously aggravating) to interact with people on there, there’s not a lot of room for anonymity, and you can’t always send people direct messages if you don’t follow them or if someone’s turned DMs off.  Enter Curious Cat, a platform that syncs up with Twitter and Facebook to let you ask people questions, even (and especially) anonymously.  Since I started using it, I’ve been fielding a lot more questions, ranging from the utterly surreal to bawdily sexual and everything in-between.  Given my focus on magic and the occult, a lot of people ask me questions pertaining to, well, magic and the occult, and it’s been great!  Sometimes I can’t answer due to things that just can’t or shouldn’t be discussed publicly, and other times I can’t answer because I simply don’t know enough about a given topic to give an answer, but at least I can say as much.  Sometimes, though, I might have too much of an answer, and there’s a 3000 character limit for my replies.

One of the recent common things I’ve been asked is on the topic of banishing.  Banishing as a ritual unto itself is a mainstay of many forms of Western magic, especially due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and its Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and its Thelemic variant the Star Ruby.  Quoth Chic and Tabitha Cicero in their Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition:

This simple yet powerful cleansing ritual can be used as a protection against the impure magnetism of others.  It is also a way to rid oneself of obsessing or disturbing thoughts … we feel that the Neophyte needs to concentrate solely on the banishing form, since s/he has a tendency to light up on the astral and unknowingly attract all manner of Elementals at this early stage of the Work. It is far more important for the Neophyte to know how to banish rather than to invoke. Anyone can attract an Elemental or an energy. Getting rid of the same can be more difficult.

And that’s really what banishing’s about, isn’t it?  It’s a kind of ritual-centric cleansing that gets rid of bad spiritual stuff.  Consider the etymology of the word “banish”:

banish (v.)
late 14c., banischen, “to condemn (someone) by proclamation or edict to leave the country, to outlaw by political or judicial authority,” from banniss-, extended stem of Old French banir “announce, proclaim; levy; forbid; banish, proclaim an outlaw” (12c., Modern French bannir), from a Germanic source (perhaps Frankish *bannjan “to order or prohibit under penalty”), from Proto-Germanic *bannan (see ban (v.)). The French word might be by way of Medieval Latin bannire, also from Germanic (compare bandit). The general sense of “send or drive away, expel” is from c. 1400. Related: Banished; banishing.

To banish is, literally, to put out of a community or country by ban or civil interdict, and indicates a complete removal out of sight, perhaps to a distance. To exile is simply to cause to leave one’s place or country, and is often used reflexively: it emphasizes the idea of leaving home, while banish emphasizes rather that of being forced by some authority to leave it …. [Century Dictionary]

When we banish, we purge a person (e.g. ourselves), an object (e.g. a magical tool or supply), or a space (e.g. a temple or a bedroom) from all malevolent, harmful, or otherwise unwanted spiritual influences, whether they’re entities in their own right (e.g. obsessive spirits or spiritual leeches), spiritual energies that aren’t necessarily conscious on their own (e.g. pollution or miasma), or maleficia that’s been cast upon you (e.g. curses or hexes).  Thus, a banishing ritual is a type of spiritual cleansing or purification that gets rid of all this, or at least helps loosen it to make getting rid of it easier.

The thing about banishing rituals is just that: they’re a ritual, and more often than not, they’re explicitly and only rituals.  They use ritual gestures and words to induce this effect, often without the use of physical cleansing supplies such as holy water, incense, or the like.  Yes, many banishing rituals can incorporate these things, but it might be more helpful to think of banishing rituals as a subset of cleansing practices more generally.  Cleansing can take many forms: ablution with lustral water (e.g. khernimma), taking a spiritual bath (e.g. my Penitential Psalms Bath, bathing in a sacred spring or river, or any other number of spiritual bath mixes like the white bath or another kind of herb bath), “cleaning off” with holy water or Florida Water or eggshell chalk or some other physical substance known to have spiritually purifying properties, suffumigating with incense (or smudging, if you do that sort of thing respectfully), and the like.  Sometimes these processes have ritual involved with prayers or specific motions, and sometimes not, where you just wipe yourself down and call it a day.  In the end, though, all these practices serve fundamentally the same purpose: to get rid of bad spiritual stuff.

What we commonly see in the Western ceremonial magic scene is less of a reliance on physical aids to purification and more of a reliance on ritual approaches to the same that often don’t use physical aids, where we use ritual and ritual alone to cleanse ourselves.  This is especially notable for those who are influenced by the Golden Dawn in one form or another, where the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP, or as my godfather fondly calls it, Le Burp) has spawned any number of variations for any number of pantheons and practices.  However, that doesn’t mean that the LBRP is the only such possible banishing trick we have; there are simpler ones out there, such as Fr. Osiris’ AL-KT Banishing that I’ve incorporated into some of my own works.  Still, the idea is the same: rather than abluting, suffumigating, or other physical approaches to spiritual purification, there are also ritual approaches that don’t use physical means to achieve the same thing.

I agree fully and readily that banishing rituals are useful, because I think spiritual purification is important and necessary for our work as mages and spiritually-inclined people.  When we’re spiritually filthy, it’s harder to think clearly, harder to work well, and harder to keep ourselves hale and whole, while it also makes it easier for us to get distracted, get caught up by life’s problems, and get things messed up easily.  Though spiritual purification, we remove obstacles in our paths or make it easier for us to remove them, but that’s far from being the only benefit!  Purification also prepares us spiritually to become something better and different than we already are, because in purifying ourselves, we not only remove negative spiritual influences that have an external source, but also negative spiritual influences that come from ourselves internally.  In dealing with those, we make ourselves fit and meet to work better and more effectively, sure, but we also prepare ourselves to better accept the powers and blessings of the entities we’re working with.  Purification can be thought of as an aspect of the albedo part of alchemy, where we reduce ourselves to our core essence through removal of all impurities so that we can begin the process of integration from a fresh, clean start.  In this, purification—and thus banishing—are crucial for our work as mages.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like a ritual-focused approach to purification.  Banishing absolutely has its place, but I also claim that physical methods to purity has its place, too.  After all, for all the spiritual stuff we do as magicians and priests and diviners, we’re also incarnate human beings with physical bodies and physical problems.  If we start with the body and work spiritually, we fix the problems we have in the here and now and also loosen and dissolve the problems we have upstream, so to speak.  Not only that, but I find that there are some things that a banishing ritual doesn’t work well to resolve, but which cleansing works done physically do.  And, of course, the reverse applies, too: there are some things that cleansing works done physically don’t resolve, but which banishing rituals do.  Both are needed.  And, moreover, you can do both at the same time, working physical elements into a banishing ritual or ritualizing a cleansing done physically.  You don’t have to do one then the other separately, unless that’s what you want to do.

Personally?  I cleanse (meaning I use physical means to spiritually purify myself, as opposed to “clean”, which is just physical cleaning without a spiritual component) far more often than I banish.  There are times when I will do a proper banishing, sure, but it’s less and less common than a simple dusting with cascarilla or washing myself with holy water, which I do pretty much daily.  Let’s face it: I’m out in the world, dealing with people and their demons, wandering hither and fro through any number of clouds of miasma, and pick up more stuff when I’m out physically in the world than I do in my temple, where, through the protections I have and the safeguards I take, there’s far less that I pick up except that which I try to let in.  I’m not saying I’m impervious to spiritual stuff I attract through the aether, far from it, but I am saying that there’s a lot more that I pick up from just being out in the physical world.  For that reason, I find myself physically cleansing myself far more often than I ritually cleanse myself.  If I were less guarded and less protections up, I’d be banishing more than I am.  But, again, that isn’t to say that I don’t banish.  After all, there’s that whole “purification to readily accept better blessings and good influences” bit I mentioned above, which is one of the reasons why the LBRP is such a mainstay of Golden Dawn practices: it not only keeps you pure, but it prepares you in some pretty profound ways that are utterly necessary for progression within their system of magic.  Those who don’t work Golden Dawn magic or who aren’t in the Golden Dawn system don’t benefit from that, but they can still use it all the same for their own purification needs.

I’m not a Golden Dawn magician, and I’ve never really cared for the LBRP.  While I could use it and get what I needed out of it, it’s not really a thing that I need to do.  Instead, what I use, when I do need a ritual purification that doesn’t rely on physical methods, is something I learned from Fr. Rufus Opus.  Back in the day when he was still teaching his Red Work series of courses (which he’s long since stopped, partially because of his joining the A∴A∴ and partially because he condensed the Green Work section into his book, Seven Spheres), in the very first lesson of the first part of the courses, he introduces a banishing ritual that’s basically a heavily pared-down and modified Trithemian conjuration ritual.  Yes, Johann Trithemius’ Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, that one!  The format is basically the same with many of the same prayers, and calls on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental princes of the world to purify yourself.

I also want to make a note about just that last bit, too.  Fr. RO introduced this ritual as a way to help the beginner purify their sphere, sure, which is great, but he’s using fundamentally the same ritual to banish as we do to conjure the spirits themselves.  More than that, we’re half-conjuring the spirits that are later called upon in the Red Work series of courses to purify the sphere of the magician.  By the use of this ritual, Fr. RO is doing the same thing for his Red Work students as the Golden Dawn did for their initiates with the LBRP: we’re getting used to the fundamental ritual tech that we’ll eventually be expanding upon, and we’re getting slowly acquainted and in tune with the very same angels and spirits that we’ll be working with heavily once we get to that point.  This banishing ritual cleanses the sphere of the magician, sure, but it also prepares the magician for when they start actually working.  Fr. RO never said all this in Black Work 1, nor did he need to; those who would never progress further would still get something useful, and those who would progress further would be slowly prepared for bigger and better results later on far beyond mere purification.

Now, I’m not going to replicate Fr. RO’s original ritual.  Instead, I’m going to share my variant, which I developed slowly over my studies in his Red Work courses years back, and which better matches my own ritual practices; plus, not that there’s anything wrong with this, but the original ritual uses some Christian imagery and language that I don’t much care for anymore, and which I’ve replaced with equivalent deist, Solomonic, or Hermetic language instead.  I’ve also added some visualizations that, though they appeared naturally for me (especially once my spiritual perception became refined and which made sense later on in the course), they can be helpful for those who want them; they’re not necessary, but they can still be useful, especially for beginners.  The only two extra things that might be desired for this ritual are holy water and a wand; both are good to have, but neither are strictly necessary.  The holy water can be used as a preliminary ablution, while the wand is good for tracing a circle and conjuring the presence of the angels generally, but the holy water can be omitted if desired and the wand can be replaced by using the index finger (or the index and middle finger together, if desired) of the dominant hand.  Incense of a purifying and uplifting nature, especially frankincense, may be burned, but it’s absolutely not required for this.  This ritual may be done at any time as necessary or desired, and though it can be done anywhere, it’s best done in a quiet and safe place.

  1. Take a moment to relax and breathe deeply a few times.
  2. Stand to face the East.
  3. If desired, cleanse yourself with some holy water.  You can wipe your forehead and hands, you can make the small three Signs of the Cross on the forehead and lips and heart with the thumb, or you can make one large Sign of the Cross with the thumb and index finger and middle finger on your head, heart, and both shoulders (left to right or right to left, depending on whether you want to go with a Catholic Christian approach, or an Orthodox Christian or qabbalistic approach).
  4. Recite:

    You have cleansed me with hyssop, o Lord; you have washed me whiter than snow.

    O God, author of all good things!  Strengthen me that I may stand fast without fear through this dealing and work.  Enlighten me, oh Lord, so that my spiritual eye may be opened to see and know the works of your hand.

  5. Holding a wand in your dominant hand, or otherwise using the index finger of the dominant hand, trace a circle on the ground around you clockwise starting in the East.  While doing so, recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light, I consecrate this piece of ground for my defense, so that no evil spirit may have power to break these bounds prescribed here.  Amen.

  6. Conjure the seven planetary angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the seven heavens above I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the seven planets.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Tzaphqiel of Saturn, Tzadqiel of Jupiter, Kamael of Mars, Michael of the Sun, Haniel of Venus, Raphael of Mercury, and Gabriel of the Moon.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their planets, starting from behind you to your right and appearing counter-clockwise, with Michael directly in front of you to the East.

  7. Conjure the four elemental angels.  Recite:

    In the name of God, the Holy, the Almighty, the Light!  From the four corners of the Earth I conjure you, you strong and mighty angels of the four elements.  Come forth, here to this place and now at this time: Michael of Fire, Uriel of Earth, Raphael of Air, and Gabriel of Water.  Come forth in answer to my call; be with me here, and fill this place with your presence!

    As you do so, visualize the presence of the angels appear around you or the symbols of their elements, starting in front of you and appearing clockwise, with Michael in the East in front of you, Uriel in the South to your right, Raphael in the West behind you, and Gabriel in the North to your left.  Visualize them a little closer to you and a little below the planetary angels, who stand behind them and a little above them.

  8. Recite:

    Tzaphqiel!  Tzadqiel!  Kamael!  Michael!  Haniel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!
    Michael!  Uriel!  Raphael!  Gabriel!

    Oh you blessed angels gathered, let no spirit nor ill intent nor any scourge of man bring harm to me.  Cleanse now the sphere of this magician; cleanse my body, my soul, my spirit, and my mind of all defilement, all impurity, and all filth.  Let no evil spirit nor pollution nor leech nor any unclean thing here remain.

    Lord, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.


  9. Let yourself become purified with the power and presence of the angels conjured around you.  Feel them washing you with their light and their power, permeating you and passing through you in all directions to remove from you all pollution, harm, and any and every baneful influence.  Stay in this state as long as desired.
  10. Release the spirits. Recite:

    O Lord, I thank you for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your angels to appear unto me.

    O you angels of the seven planets and you angels of the four elements, I thank you for your presence.  You have come as I have called, and you have aided me as I have asked.  As you have come in peace, so now go in power.


  11. If desired, untrace the circle drawn on the ground with the same implement as before (wand or finger) in a counterclockwise direction, again starting in the East.  Whether or not the circle is untraced, when ready to leave, simply step out of the circle, preferably stepping forward towards the East.

With that specific arrangement of angels of the planets and elements around you, what you’re doing is essentially recreating the arrangement of angels on the Table of Practice used in the Rufus Opus-specific variant of the Trithemian conjuration ritual.  In this case, the angels present aren’t being used to set up a conjuration of the self or anything like that, but rather instead used as a kind of cosmological arrangement of powers upon the magician and their sphere.  It’s a subtle thing, but an important one; again, this ties into the subtle conditioning of banishing to prepare the magician for bigger and better things to come, as well as training the magician in the tools, arrangements, organization, and ultimate cosmology of the practices they’ll later engage in.

So, that’s it.  A simple and straightforward approach to using the planetary and elemental angels for purifying the sphere of the magician with all their powers at once in a balanced, efficient, and effective way.  Are there variants?  Of course!  For instance, the original format of the ritual called on the four elemental kings of the Earth itself: Oriens of the East, Paimon of the West, Egyn of the North, and Amaymon of the South.  If you’re comfortable working with these entities, then by all means, use them!  For those who prefer an angel-only approach, use the four archangel names instead.  There’s good logic for calling on the kings rather than the archangels, especially in that they’re a lot closer to us as incarnate beings than the angels are or ever have been, and so can be called on instead for a better and more incarnation-specific way to purge the sphere of unhelpful or harmful influences.  However, I still prefer to call on the angels for my own reasons.

In addition to calling on the seven planetary angels and the four elemental angels (or kings), you can also call on the twelve zodiacal angels as well: Malkhidael of Aries, Asmodel of Taurus, Ambriel of Gemini, Muriel of Cancer, Verkhiel of Leo, Hamaliel of Virgo, Zuriel of Libra, Barbiel of Scorpio, Adnokhiel of Sagittarius, Hanael of Capricorn, Kambriel of Aquarius, and Barkhiel of Pisces.  This, again, is a cosmological influence from my own, bigger Table of Practice that I personally use nowadays; you’d arrange them so that Malkhidael is aligned to the East, along with Michael of the Sun and Michael (or Oriens) of Fire, and go counterclockwise from there.  You’d conjure them before the planetary angels, using similar language.  However, this is overkill, in my opinion; what’s really necessary are the seven planetary angels and the four elemental archangels/kings.
And there you have it!  A clean ritual for a clean spirit.  What about you?  What sorts of banishing rituals do you use, dear reader?  Do you stick to more physical cleansings and baths, do you take a ritual-centric approach to ritual and spiritual purity, or do you use both?  What techniques, tips, or tricks might you be willing to share?  Feel free to share in the comments!

On Ritual Days in the Grammatēmerologion

Lately I’ve been going over my Grammatēmerologion text again—you know, that gigantic calendar ebook I put out that goes from March 2015 to March 2053.  It’s essentially my exploration into a lunisolar calendar that maps the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month as well as to the months of the lunar (really, lunisolar) year.  It’s up on my Books page for free download, if you’re interested.  It’s a beast of a PDF, and it’s roughly broken down into three parts: a description of how the Grammatēmerologion is constructed as well as how it can be used, an “almanac” that lists certain types of days as they occur in the 2015—2053 period, and the actual calendar of months.  A preview of October 2018 can be seen below giving you an idea of what it looks like:

Well, I’ve been taking another look at it.  Since printing out a copy for my own temple use, I’ve noticed that there are a few typos in it, a few things that need correcting, and just general improvements to formatting that can be made.  The content is largely the same, but I’ve been mulling lately how to better ply the Grammatēmerologion for calendar-specific ways to organize and arrange my rituals.  As I see it, there are three ways the Grammatēmerologion can be used for this specific purpose:

  1. Use the correspondences of the letters to the Greek, Hellenic, and other gods according to the letter-days.  For instance, given Agrippa’s Orphic Scale of Twelve (book II, chapter 14), we know that the zodiac sign of Cancer is associated with Hermēs.  Because the letter for the sign of Cancer is Zēta (book I, chapter 74), we can give the letter Zēta to Hermēs.  Thus, the fifth day of the lunar month, given to Zēta, can be used for worship and ritual of Hermēs.
  2. Use the interlocking cycles of letter-days and letter-months.  Because most (not every) month is also given a letter of the Greek alphabet, every lettered month will have one lettered day where the letters of the day and month match up; these are termed the Megalēmerai, the Great Days of the Grammatēmerologion.  Thus, the Gregorian calendar month of October 2018, which starts in the grammatēmerologic month of Sigma, October 1 has the letter of Sigma associated with it.  Thus, October 1, 2018 is the Megalēmera of Sigma, because it’s the day of Sigma in the month of Sigma.  Sigma is associated with Aquarius, and further to Hēra.
  3. Use the interlocking cycles of letter-days, letter-months, and letter-years.  Just as the days and months are associated with letters, so are most of the years of a single 38-year grammatēmerologic cycle (composed of two modified 19-year Metonic cycles).  Just as Megalēmerai are days when the letters of the day and month line up, there are also days when the letters of the day, month, and year line up as well; these are the Megistēmerai, or the Greatest Days of the Grammatēmerologion.  Unlike Megalēmerai, which occur for every letter and which happen for all but maybe one month a year, Megistēmerai are significantly rarer; only twelve Megistēmerai are possible across an entire 38-year cycle, and those only for the letters of Γ, Δ, Η, Θ, Ι, Μ, Ο, Π, Τ, Υ, Φ, and Ω.  Megistēmerai are essentially superpowered Megalēmerai, though I’m investigating to see if there’s any reasonable pattern or thread that can be used to connect those letters given above to see if something special can be done with them above and beyond their usual significations.

These days can be plied so that you could do monthly rituals of a god that’s important to you—for instance, celebrating Hermēs every month on the day of Zēta—or you could tone it back to just monthly ceremonies for the gods, one each on their own proper Megalēmera across a two-year period.  Megistēmerai would be big festivals, as I’m thinking of them, since they’re so uncommon, and any given Megistēmera would be a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event.  For the record, the Megistēmerai of the current cycle according to the Grammatēmerologion are:

  1. Gamma: June 6, 2019
  2. Deltla: July 13, 2021
  3. Ēta: September 30, 2025
  4. Thēta: November 9, 2027
  5. Iōta: December 17, 2029
  6. Mu: March 4, 2034
  7. Omikron: June 20, 2038
  8. Pi: July 27, 2040
  9. Tau: October 15, 2044
  10. Upsilon: November 24, 2046
  11. Phi: December 31, 2048 (happy New Years, indeed!)
  12. Ōmega: March 18, 2053

The next one after that, another Megistēmera of Gamma, would occur in June 2057.  Never let it be said that I don’t enjoy long-term planning.

These are all useful ways to consider ritual according to the Grammatēmerologion, but there are other ways to ply special dates out of it, too, based on the interaction of the seven-day week.  Even though I don’t make use of such a cycle as part of the Grammatēmerologion proper, as there’s no way to get a seven-day week to fit neatly with any of the cycles already in place, I still make use of it in tandem with the Grammatēmerologion, and based on the intermeshing of these two cycles, there are other nifty days we can recognize.  I go over this in the ebook about it, but to summarize:

  • Planētēmerai or “Days of the Planets” are days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls on the weekday ruled by that same planet.  For instance, if Alpha is associated with the planet of the Moon, then the Planētēmera of the Moon occurs when the day of Alpha falls on a Monday, which is also ruled by the Moon.
  • Astrēmerai or “Days of the Stars” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s domicile.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Venus has its domicile in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Friday would be an Astrēmera.  Because Venus also has domicile in Taurus, itself associated with the Greek letter Gamma, then the day of Gamma falling on a Friday would also be an Astrēmera; any planet that rules two zodiac signs would also have two Astrēmerai.
  • Doksēmerai or “Days of Glory” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s exaltation.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Saturn has its exaltation in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Saturday would be a Doksēmera.
  • Phthorēmerai or “Days of Ruin” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s fall.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if the Sun has its fall in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Sunday would be a Phthorēmera.
  • Phugēmerai or “Days of Flight” are days when a day with a letter associated with a zodiac sign falls on the weekday ruled by the planet of that sign’s exile.  Thus, if Mu is associated with the zodiac sign of Libra, and if Mars has its exile in Libra, then the day of Mu falling on a Tuesday would be a Phugēmera.  As with the Astrēmerai, planets with two domiciles also have two exiles, so the Phūgemera of Mars would also occur when the day of Gamma, associated with Mars’ other exile Taurus, falls on a Tuesday.

As I reckon it, the strictly Grammatēmerologion letter-based days above (the monthly rituals for the gods, the Megalēmerai, and the Megistēmerai) are good mostly for days of worship for the gods, though the Megalēmerai and Megistēmerai can be used for astrological and stellar rituals as well.  However, these five types of days that work with both the Grammatēmerologion and the seven-day week are excellent for planetary rituals, and can offer some insight into how strong a given day might be based on how the Grammatēmerologic lunar day of the month plays with the seven-day week and planetary rulerships—or, conversely, how strong or weak a given planet’s influence can be on its day of the week based on where it falls in a lunar month according to the Grammatēmerologion.

Of course, all of these are divested from any properly astrological phenomena, save for the phase of the Moon itself; this is an alternate system of reckoning fortuitous or appropriate days for ritual instead of using electional astrology, which (of course) is an entirely different field, and I don’t mean to supplant electional astrology nor claim that the Grammatēmerologion system used for this type of thing is as powerful or as good as it.  It’s just another alternative system for those who don’t bother or don’t know about it, and for that purpose, is fine for most non-astrologically-minded magicians.  Still, of these five latter types of days can be useful if you want to, for instance, plan a particular ritual of Venus and want its domicile quality of being in Libra or Taurus instead of its exaltation quality of being in Pisces.  That said, in all honesty, I’d probably just use the Planētēmerai before any of the other such days given here, because it’s such a strong connection that overlaps these two cycles.

Still, I feel like the Grammatēmerologion can be used for more that just playing with cycles of letters or how those cycles play with the seven-day week.  It’s this that I’m trying to expand on most now for the Grammatēmerologion ebook, but also for my own practice.  How can I better ply “days of power” out of this system?  Consider my Mathēsis system that uses a Great Tetractys with its Gnosis Schema, a set of twelve paths that traverse the ten sphairai on the Tetractys, paths which I liken to the twelve signs of the Zodiac as the Sun travels in its course through the ecliptic every year:

One of the reasons why I want to develop the Grammatēmerologion is to develop ways to time certain rituals, such as my Ingress Rituals (which I still need to work on fleshing out more).  So, let’s say I wanted to perform a Path Ritual of Aries, which connects the sphaira of Mercury to the sphaira of Jupiter (or of Air).  Aries is associated with the letter Bēta, so I’d want to pick a time associated with Bēta.  But, here’s the thing: how?  Do I want to use any old day of Bēta?  I could, but why not a Megalēmera of Bēta?  This makes sense, to use a Bēta-day in a Bēta-month, but the month of Bēta occurs only once every two years, which would be unfortunate if I miss it.  More than that, though, performing a ritual of Aries seems odd if there’s no connection going on with Aries, so why not a time when the Sun is actually, yanno, in Aries, especially if the whole idea of traversing the Gnosis Schema is to mimic the passage of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac.  So, the obvious solution would be to pick a day of Bēta—essentially the day of Aries—when the Sun is in Aries.

This idea led me to a new kind of ritual day, the Kōmastēmerai or “Days of Revel”.  The term comes from Greek κωμαστηριον, literally “processional way” originally referring to a meeting-place of Bacchic celebrants, but which is used in the Greek Magical Papyri to refer to the Sun’s or other stellar passages through heaven along the ecliptic or other celestial routes.  Thus, “Days of Revel” could also be called “Processional Days”, days with a letter associated with a zodiac sign that fall while the Sun is in that same sign.  In this way, every month of the year, regardless whether any given month has a letter at all or what it might be, has at least one Kōmastēmera, and every sign of the Zodiac can be celebrated every year as opposed to once every two years using the Megalēmera-based method.  Interestingly, some signs have two Komastēmerai, if the letter-day falls on the day of or just after the ingress of the Sun into that sign, which means that some calendar years can have as many as 16 Komastēmerai, though most years just have one per month.

As an example, consider October 2018 again.  In October 2018 (as in every other October every year), the Sun is first in Libra (associated with the Greek letter Mu), then it passes to Scorpio (which is associated with the letter Nu).  The Sun passes into Scorpio at 11:22 UTC on Wednesday, October 23, 2018, which happens to be a day of Mu.  Where I live, the Sun enters into Scorpio just before sunrise, and because days in the Grammatēmerologion are reckoned from sunrise, this means that by the time the day of Mu starts at sunrise, the Sun will already be in Scorpio.  This means that the next day, October 24, which happens to be a day of Nu which is associated with Scorpio, is the Kōmastēmera of Scorpio.  This makes Thursday, October 24, 2018 an excellent day to perform a Mathētic Ritual of the Sun’s Ingress into Scorpio.

Like how there can be weekday-influenced days of power and days of weakness, as with the Astrēmerai and Phugēmerai or the Doksēmerai and Phthorēmerai, why not make similar corollaries to the Kōmastēmerai?  If these days occur when the letter-day of the month lines up with the sign the Sun is currently in, why not make days when the letter-day of the month lines up with the sign opposite the Sun?  Thus, we can also envision Kruphēmerai, “Days of Hiding”, days with a letter associated with a zodiac sign that fall while the Sun is in its opposing sign.  Recall that the next Kōmastēmera is that of Scorpio, falling on the day of Nu on October 24; the opposite sign of Scorpio is Taurus, which is associated with the letter Gamma, so the corresponding Kruphēmera of Scorpio would be the day of Gamma, which happens to fall on November 10, 2018.  While the purpose of the Kōmastēmerai seem pretty obvious to me, it’s not clear what purpose Kruphēmerai would serve.  What comes to mind are days of danger, harm, or otherwise ill omen due to the mismatch of ebbs and flows of power between the zodiac signs of the current time of the lunar month versus those in power of the Sun.  Again, something to be experimented with.

One could expand this system a bit more, too, by not just recognizing the solar Kōmastēmerai and Kruphēmerai but also their lunar equivalents of Epainēmerai, “Days of Praise”, and Aiskhēmerai“Days of Shame”, which would be the same idea but for the Moon.  Interestingly, because of how the Grammatēmerologion works, I don’t think there can reasonably be a day that is both Kōmastēmera and Epainēmera at the same time; this would require the Sun and Moon to be in the same sign or conjunct and on a day given to a letter associated with a sign of the Zodiac.  A day when the Sun and Moon are so close only happens around the New Moon, but the last few days of a Grammatēmerologic month aren’t associated with signs of the Zodiac, and the first day of the lunar month is given to Alpha, which is associated with the Moon.  I haven’t done the calculations, but this means that such a day probably couldn’t occur, except extraordinarily rarely and then only for the sign of Aries (the second day of the lunar month).  I’d need to check to see whether this is a thing.  Even then, though, I don’t think such days could be that common anyway, given how the synodic lunar months don’t really match up well with the Zodiac, given the variable start date from month to month.  For instance, consider that the Kōmastēmera of Scorpio on October 24, the day of Nu, falls on the Full Moon, which means the Moon is in Taurus opposite the Sun in Scorpio, and the next time the day of Nu comes about, the Moon will again be approaching fullness in late Taurus.  I’d need to do the calculations on this, but I don’t think Epainēmerai are really that common, or if they are, whether they can equally happen for all of the zodiac signs.  Thinking about it more, though, if you end up with one Epainēmera, then you might end up with two in a row, if the Moon changes sign at some point between those two days, though that might be even rarer.  All that above is ditto for Aiskhēmerai.  Still, given the solar focus of so much of Mathēsis ritual work and timing, I’m not sure Epainēmerai and Aiskhēmerai would have much of a place, especially given how rare or odd they might be.

What if we were to bring the seven-day week into this mix?  Now we’re getting into some really unusual or rare alignments of conditions, and I’m really not sure how many of these there might be.  Some ideas of possible things to recognize would be:

  • Sigēmerai, or “Days of Silence”, days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls on the weekday ruled by that same planet but only while that planet is retrograde.  For instance, if Epsilon is associated with the planet of Mercury, then the Sigēmerai of the Mercury occurs when the day of Epsilon falls on a Wednesday while Mercury is retrograde.  In other words, Sigēmerai can only occur on their corresponding Planētēmerai while that given planet is retrograde.  Sigēmerai cannot occur for the Sun and the Moon, because they cannot be retrograde.  A real example of this is the Sigēmera of Jupiter coming up on June 27, 2019; this is a day of Upsilon on a Thursday, and so would normally be a Planētēmera of Jupiter if it weren’t for the fact that Jupiter is retrograde from April 10 to August 11 in 2019.
  • Khrusēmerai, or “Days of Gold”, days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls during the sign in which the Sun is currently to be found and which that planet has domicile.  For instance, if the Sun is in Scorpio, then the planetary ruler of Scorpio is Mars, which is associated with the letter Omikron.  So, the day of Omikron while the Sun is in Scorpio (or in Aries!) becomes a Khrusēmera.  Just such a day is coming up on Friday, October 26, 2018, the day of Omikron (Mars) while the Sun is in Scorpio.
  • Argurēmerai, or “Days of Silver”.  Given the whole parallel structure I’ve previously set up with the Sun and the Moon, this could be used to refer to days when a day with a letter associated with a planet fall during the sign in which the Moon is currently to be found and which that planet has domicile.  However, given how rare and unlikely this seems, I’d rather give this instead to days when a day with a letter associated with a planet falls during the sign in which the Sun is currently to be found and which that planet has exaltation.  Thus, consider September 14, 2018; this was a day of Epsilon, and thus associated with Mercury, that occurred while the Sun was in Virgo, the exaltation of Mercury.  (Also note that this would also be a Khrusēmera, too, because Mercury has both exaltation and domicile in Virgo.)
  • Rupēmerai and Aukhmēmerai, “Days of Filth” and “Days of Tarnish”, respectively, which are basically like Khrusēmerai and Argurēmerai except, instead of relating to the current Sun sign’s domicile and exaltation, the current Sun sign’s exile (Rupēmerai) or fall (Aukhmēmerai).  So, if the Sun is currently in Libra, the corresponding Rupēmera would be the day of Omikron (associated with Mars, which has exile in Libra) and the day of Iōta (associated with the Sun, which has fall in Libra).
  • What if a Khrusēmera, Argurēmera, etc. happens while the planet in question is retrograde?  In this case, if the planet is the current Sun sign’s exaltation or fall or exile (but not domicile), then they cancel out and the day becomes just another ordinary day, but if it’s the current Sun sign’s domicile planet, then it becomes Arrhētēmera, or “Unspeakable Day”.
  • What if a Khrusēmera, Argurēmera, etc. happens on the proper weekday of that planet itself?  In other words, what happens if a Khrusēmera is also a Planētēmera?  At this point, why not just recognize them separately?  No special term needed for this; the day of Alpha (of the Moon) while the Sun is in Cancer falling on a Monday can be a Khrusēmera and Planētēmera, though the terms can be combined: Khrusoplanētēmera, or “Golden Day of the Planet”.  Likewise, we could have a Arguroplanētēmera or Rupoplanētēmera or Aukhmoplanētēmera, depending on what the type of day is, though if the planet is retrograde, it would simply be Sigēmera or Arrhētēmera, as above.
  • The prefixes Mega- and Megist- can be applied to any of the above terms if they also happen to be a Megalēmera or Megistēmera, respectively.  For example, April 7, 2020 is a Tuesday, and is also the day of Nu in the month of Nu.  Because the day and the month share the same letter, this is a Megalēmera; because the letter Nu is associated with Scorpio and this day falls on a Tuesday, which is ruled by Mars as the domicile-ruler of Scorpio, this is also an Astrēmera.  Thus, because this day is both Megalēmera and Astrēmera, it can be called a Megalastrēmera.  Similarly, March 4, 2034, is the day of Mu in the month of Mu in the year of Mu (Megistēmera), which also happens to fall on a Saturday (day of Libra on the day of Saturn, the exaltation of Libra).  Thus, this would be a Megistodoksēmera.  (And a Full Moon, no less, so plan early and mark your calendars!)

I’m sure I could come up with other terms to mix the weekday cycle, the Grammatēmerologic cycle, and the actual astrological phenomena of the skies, but I’m not sure all such possible combinations of interactions would need terms.  Heck, in this post alone, I’ve introduced over twenty types of “special days”, and I’m starting to feel like a bad fantasy author who’s badly trying to incorporate some kind of elvish or alien conlang.  Even if I were to come up with names, that doesn’t mean that they’re all equally valuable.  Honestly, I think the most important regularly (or semi-regularly) occurring special days to keep track of are:

  • Noumēniai, the celebration of a new month just after the New Moon
  • Megalēmerai and their rarer version Megistēmerai, the celebration of matching cycles of days
  • Planētēmerai and their retrograde version Sigēmerai to mark especially potent days (if the former) or days to be utterly avoided (if the latter) for planetary works
  • Kōmastēmerai to mark the passage of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac
  • Khrusēmerai and their retrograde version Arrhētēmerai to mark the ruling planetary power of the current Sun sign, whether direct (if the former) or retrograde (if the latter) and how to approach that planet’s power

It’s good that we’re developing a technical vocabulary for specific workings, but let’s be honest, not all of these need to be known or marked, especially given how obscure or rare some of them might be.  When it comes to writing and developing (and redeveloping and refining) this Grammatēmerologion ebook, it also becomes a question of what really needs to get accounted for in the calendar and almanac itself, and how easy it is to calculate certain things.  Megalēmerai and Megistēmerai are near trivial to calculate, and figuring out the weekday special days (Planētēmerai, Astrēmerai, etc.) are easy enough as well.  It’s when we get into the astrological bits that I start having to bust out the algorithms and programming, and I haven’t yet gotten around to coding the relevant parts of Jean Meeus’ Astronomical Algorithms to determine whether any given planet on any given day is retrograde is not.

Even then, with this small selection of eight (really five if you don’t count the variations) special days, we’re coming up with a regular and notable ritual schedule that arises from the use of the Grammatēmerologion apart from simply using it to order rituals of worship and sacrifice to the gods, and a sort of regular theurgic and spiritual practice begins to take form.  This is precisely just what the Grammatēmerologion is designed to help with: a temporal tool and aide to structure and organize rituals in a lunisolar calendar based on the letters of the Greek alphabet.  The current Grammatēmerologion ebook suffices for this, but I am working on getting a better version out that incorporates some of these other special days in.

I was on a podcast over at My Alchemical Bromance!

Personally speaking, my preferred medium is the written word.  I get to clarify and refine my thoughts into an actually acceptable format, it’s easy to peruse if you have time or skim through if you don’t, and searching through it is trivial with most modern search functions (though I have my issues with the WordPress search from time to time).  It’d be a weird day indeed if I were to start making videos or podcasts of my own as a Thing, but I’m certainly not opposed to other people doing it, especially when they’ve got good practice at making it work well for them and entertaining to boot!  I like leaving this sort of thing to the good people who’ve mastered it.

Not that long ago, I was invited to chat with the good Rev. Erik L. Arneson over on his podcast of My Alchemical Bromance,  Rev. Arneson, who also manages the website, blog, and reading services of Arnemancy which focuses on a variety of Hermetic topics old and new, invited me onto the show to chat about the Greek Magical Papyri, geomancy (which I think is becoming almost my cliche thing? eh, it’s definitely my thing, to be sure), ceremonial magic, and a variety of other topics as we share a drink.  He had a fancy beer, while I drank my already-half-emptied 1.5L bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red blend, leftover from offerings done earlier in the week, which he mirthfully mocked me for (and rightfully so).

What?  Y’all knew I don’t bother with taste if I don’t need to.

You can listen to the episode directly on their website at this page, or you can listen to the 1hr37min debaculous chat here:

Once you’re done (and I do hope you enjoyed it—it was super fun chatting with the good reverend), be sure to like them on Facebook, follow them on whatever RSS feeder you prefer, and subscribe to their podcast!

Soapbox Time: Animal Sacrifice and “Black Magic”

I tried to not put a post out about this again.  I really did, you guys, especially since I was fortunate enough to completely miss the recent Internet debacle-argument about this topic, and moreso since I wrote one post on the one topic and another on the other years ago and was hoping to not have to succumb to this particular urge again.  But, then again, it has been like five years since I wrote those posts, and though quite a lot has happened, my views on these two topics hasn’t particularly changed much except for being refined.

So, the other day, I put out my write-up on PGM XII.201—269, which I’ve entitled the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, a consecration of an engraved ring of power that protects the wearer and also ensures their success in magical workings, a sort of forerunner to the Ring of Solomon found in later centuries.  Part of the ceremony calls for the sacrificial offering of seven birds—a pure white goose, three roosters, and three pigeons—but since I’m fully aware that not everyone is willing, trained, or able to perform such a ceremony, I also offered an alternative approach using sacrificial, animal-less cakes made to symbolize the offering of the birds instead.  I think that it’s a wonderful ritual that I’m eager to try at some point in the future, using the cake substitutions instead of bird sacrifices, not because I’m unable or unwilling to use birds here, but because I want to keep things simple for a first honest attempt, along with other personal accommodations for my own circumstances and situations.

Well, shortly after I shared it on one of the social media platforms I use, the ritual got a particular comment that rubbed me the wrong way, which was all of: “Whoa. That’s some serious black magick“, complete with a sadface. Granted, with such a terse comment that gave no justification for saying what it did, I honestly can’t say why that particular person commented that this was “black magic”, but I’m pretty certain I can hone in on it.  And I just…I just can’t, y’all.  I did make a reply to that comment, but since this particular thing set me off sore on two volatile topics at once, I figured if I was gonna get this urge out my system, I may as well get it out in full, in depth, and at length here.

First, let’s get the easy bit out of the way: “black magic” is a ridiculous term that we should have abandoned long ago, right along with “white magic”.  For some, it’s an issue of racism; for others, an issue of not understanding other traditions; for yet others, a shaming mechanism to get people to “evolve” into “higher states of spiritual being” from “backwards” or “primitive” or “dark” places.  Whether for these or other reasons, “black magic” is a deplorable term that’s often used to (a) make someone seem way more spooky than they are (b) market themselves as an edgelord sorcerer a la E.A. Koetting (c) shame the practices, rites, and occulture of others because one is uncomfortable with what they do.  Yes, I know the world is wide and full of awe, things that are both awesome and awful.  At the same time, you generally don’t have the right to judge other practices and cultures, especially those which are foreign to you or those which are from antiquity, unless you can also claim some measure of expertise in the context, development, and reasoning behind those practices of those cultures.

“Black magic” is a phrase that’s often more in line with really spooky witchcraft, devil-working, demon-summoning, cursing, and other outright maleficia in the sense of magic that’s intended to cause harm, pain, suffering, or death to others, generally out of a sense of wrath, greed, malice, or other vice-fueled emotion.  Then again, the term “black magic” is used at best when it “accurately” refers to these things as they are actually done; just as often as not, if not more so, the phrase “black magic” is used to describe any type of magic that one might find transgressive, dangerous, unpalatable, or frightening.  This is ridiculous, to be frank about it; the use of magic in general is transgressive and dangerous, and to anyone who isn’t familiar with anything in magic, it’s all unpalatable and frightening.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve scared off by saying I conjure angels, much less work with ancient subterranean deities, and those are generally the more appealing and “kinder” spirits we work with (though angels are terrifying as shit, too, and we should never forget why the first thing they say in biblical literature is “be not afraid”, nor should we ever forget our place amongst the gods lest we fall into hubris and suffer the extreme penalties for doing so).  If you call something “black magic” because it’s unpalatable or frightening, it’s because it’s unpalatable or frightening to you.  Others, for whom it’s their bread and butter, may find it normal and natural, even holy and sanctified in its own right.  It’s much like how many Christians think of a variety of non-Christian religions as “evil”, “wicked”, “witchcraft”, or even “black magic”; to call the practices of another that you don’t understand “black magic” is just as farcical; consider Mark Twain’s The War Prayer, which would be an example of maleficia that’s otherwise grounded in normalized, culturally-acceptable religion.  Heck, even if you do understand it, call it what it is: is it a curse, or devil-working, or maleficium?  Call it that, and be clear and accurate about it!  But don’t call it “black magic” and think that by being judgmental you’re preserving your pristine ethics and morals, because you’re not, and you end up making yourself look ridiculous.

So, the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual got called “black magic”.  Why might that be?  Considering any of the “accurate” meanings of what “black magic” might mean (and I use the term “accurate” very loosely here), we simply don’t find any of that in this ritual.  In fact, we find a pretty standard, pretty pious hymn to the Agathos Daimōn, the “Good Spirit” of Hellenic influence that became a sort of personalized almighty God figure, much as how many modern Christians conceive of God as not just the God of all the cosmos but also their own personal, private God that watches out for them.  We find the preliminary invocation calling upon all the beneficent gods who rule over the world in all its forms and in all its ways, almost in an animist worldview rather than a polytheistic one, so as to establish the authority of the magician in mythic terms with the right to call upon them.  We find the consecration of the ring to be such that the magician “may wear this power in every place, in every time, without being smitten or afflicted, so as to be preserved intact from every danger while I wear this power”, so that “none of the daimones or spirits will or can oppose” them.  If it weren’t for the explicit Egyptian references and comparatively outdated terminology in the ritual, we might be forgiven for thinking this was something from one iteration or another of the Key of Solomon.  I think we can pretty solidly establish that whatever type or field of magic might be referenced by “black magic”, the Royal Ring of Abrasax doesn’t fall into it.

If you want good PGM examples of maleficia, you don’t have to search hard: PDM xiv.675—694 (the Evil Sleep of Seth; much of PDM xiv has similar recipes and poisons for causing “evil sleep” i.e. catalepsy, as well as blindness or death), PGM IV.2622—2707 (the Slander Spell of Selēnē), PGM IV.3255—3274 (Seth’s curse of punishments), PGM VII.396—404 (for silencing, subjecting, and restraining), PGM XII.365—375 (for inflicting the separation of Seth and Osiris or Seth and Isis on two friends or lovers through strife, war, odiousness, and enmity), and PGM CXXIV.1—43 (to inflict illness), to say nothing of all the other restraining and binding spells, as well as all the love spells which verge on domination, subjection, and inflicting pain so as to make someone love the magician.  Then there are also the curse tablets, also known as defixiones or katadesmoi, which we find across the entire western Old World across many, many centuries (more information available at Ancient Esotericism).  Those are all undoubtedly maleficia of various types and kinds, which may or may not have their justifiable uses; the Royal Ring of Abrasax, however, bears nothing in common with these.

The only objectionable part of the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, then, must be the use of animal sacrifice, which is seen as a generally distasteful thing amongst…well, let’s be honest: urbanite or suburbanite, middle-class or upper-class, Western-centric practitioners who are separated from the cycle of life and death present in agriculture and animal husbandry as well as social, religious, and magical practices that go back literal millennia across every culture and continent.  On the other hand, I’m a proponent of animal sacrifice, for the ceremonies that call for them, when there’s a recognizable need to incorporate them in those ceremonies, and when performed by someone who is properly capable of carrying out such an act of sacrifice.

Before I continue, I want to mention a bit about the gravity of animal sacrifice.  While a staple of the religious and magical practices of most (not every) culture at some point on Earth, it’s a pretty big deal to sacrifice an animal; more than fruit or grain, raising animals is an investment.  Sure, agricultural goods are investments, too, but the nature of animal sacrifice is different because they’re expensive and, more importantly, have the blood and breath of life in them.  This is what makes them far more potent than offerings of libations, incense, foodstuffs, or other votive gifts, no matter how rare or intricate.  To sacrifice an animal is truly a sacrifice, because you have to come to terms with the cycle of life and death that enabled you to come into the presence of such a sacrifice as well as the process by which you cease its life for the dedication and offering to a divinity, or using its life force in a directed way for magical ends that cannot (whether easily or at all) be accomplished through the use of non-animal means.  It’s not like setting out a cup of barley grains for Hermēs or a plate of pears for Obatala, then tossing it out the next week; the process of animal sacrifice is not to be taken for granted, and neither is the life of the thing to be sacrificed.

Given that, I recognize that there are a variety of reasons one might choose to abstain from animal sacrifice, many of which were brought up in the comments on my original post on this topic from 2012:

  • One takes an egalitarian animist view of the cosmos: everything has a spirit, nothing is spiritually master or owner of another.  In this light, the notion of “dedication” and “sacrifice” become moot, because there is no point in dedicating a sacrifice to an entity that cannot own anything.
  • One takes a strictly pacifist, nonviolent approach in all their works: no harm done to anything as a result of ritual or as part of it.  This may or may not overlap with animal rights activism and vegetarianism/veganism out of concern for the well-being of animals.
  • One has a sincere love and care for the well-being of animal life, whether they are people, pets, or livestock.  This may or may not overlap with animal rights activism and vegetarianism/veganism out of concern for the well-being of animals.
  • The rules and restrictions of one’s own practices and religion forbid it (e.g. Orphism).
  • The gods and spirits one works with insist on or mandate bloodless sacrifice for their worship and works.

One common argument I see against animal sacrifice is that “you wouldn’t sacrifice your pet dog or cat, so why would you sacrifice a chicken or goat?”.  You’re right; I wouldn’t sacrifice my pet, because pets aren’t livestock.  Pets are animals we raise for support, companionship, protection, and entertainment; for all intents and purposes, pets are family, and I wouldn’t sacrifice a member of my family.  Livestock, on the other hand, do not fall into that category.  They are raised for food, for breeding, for their hair, for their eggs; livestock are animals for consumption.  To cross the semantic boundary between pet and livestock is…even I find it distasteful, but I also recall myths and stories where such things were done in times of extreme need or revelation (e.g. Baucis and Philemon about to sacrifice their pet goose when they realized that it was truly Zeus and Hermēs visiting them in their hovel).

Heck, even if one is okay with animal sacrifice, there are plenty more reasons why one might not do it:

  • Lack of skill in safely and, as much as possible, humanely slaughtering an animal
  • Lack of funds for animals
  • Lack of appropriate space or privacy to keep animals, whether on a short- or long-term basis, as well as to conduct the ceremony
  • Lack of means or skill to properly process and butcher the animal for ritual or personal consumption, if applicable to the ceremony
  • Lack of means or space to dispose of any non-sacrificial and non-processable parts
  • Lack of knowledge of the proper ritual procedure for conducting such a sacrifice

That said, farms that raise livestock for personal use are often quite skilled in quickly and safely slaughtering animals, and butchery is a time-honored profession that overlaps significantly with slaughtering animals.  So long as one is willing to get their hands and apron bloodied, it’s not hard to learn these skills at least to a rudimentary, acceptable level, and make accommodations where needed for processing, disposal, and the like.  Most humans eat meat to some extent, and for many people, it’s a necessary part of their diet and culinary culture.  (Some might argue that nobody needs to eat animals and that everyone should be vegan, but it’s not a sustainable practice for many parts of the world, and it negates the fact that the human body does not operate on a one-diet-fits-all approach.)  Many people don’t get any sort of glimpse into the process of raising, slaughtering, or processing animals for consumption nowadays, especially in the Western urban world, but we can’t lose sight of the fact of where our sliced deli meats, Thanksgiving turkeys, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and pork chops come from, especially considering how many people thoughtlessly and mindlessly pick up such animal products from their supermarkets and grocery stores to eat them later.  More people in the past were far more familiar with what it takes to process animals from field to plate; heck, if your grandparents are still alive, ask them what it was like to pluck chickens.  It wasn’t that long ago that many people killed animals on their own properties for their own benefit and sustenance in many Western first-world countries, either, and many still do, especially outside the Western first-world sphere.

When it comes to the religious use of animal sacrifice, we need to think about the role religion plays in our lives.  In some cultures, mainly the Greco-Roman ones I’m thinking of, there was no word for “religion” in the sense of a distinct field of human activity; there were words to describe particular modes of worship, but they struggled with a way to define the role of religion in their lives, because they couldn’t separate it out from the other things they did on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.  More than just religious festivals and rites of passage, religion was intertwined with every breath of every day.  In that sense, if we’re going to kill something that took time and effort to raise, why not honor the gods by it and give them their fair share?  Also consider the Jewish practice of shechita, the kosher-permissible ritual slaughter of animals for consumption, which ties in with the practice of qorban, the acts and regulations of sacrifice permitted within the Temple of the Jews.  Then, bring in the long-standing and vital role that animal sacrifice plays in a variety of African religions, both practiced to this day within Africa as well as in the diaspora in forms such as La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, Candomblé, Vodou, and so forth; in these moments, animal sacrifices are often special occasions, celebrating a particular divinity, festival, or other sincere need, and are often communal celebrations where the meat is shared.  Indeed, in many traditional cultures, it’s more often than not that people got a substantial amount of their meat intake from participating in religious ceremonies.  And, more recently, some reconstructionist and revivalist pagan traditions are reincorporating the practices of animal sacrifice in their modern practices as was documented to have been done before Christianity knocked them off the map.

There are lots of schools of thought on the exact, precise role animal sacrifice plays (and, moreover, ought to play) in religious works, and generally these are limited to at most a handful of practices and traditions that involve them; I wouldn’t use Neoplatonic views on the appropriateness of animal sacrifice in Santería, nor would I try to impose Jewish ritual practices in a Hellenic ceremony.  Likewise, I would find it unconscionable for someone to judge the practices of another to which they don’t belong.  The most that I would personally agree with would be, if you have an issue for one reason or another, do your best to neither participate or benefit from it.  That’s fine!  In that case, you don’t need such practices, and they don’t need you.  If it comes to pass that you do, for some reason, need such practices as requires animal sacrifice, on the other hand, follow their rules, because they’ve been doing this a lot longer than you have and, simply put, still don’t need you to change, judge, or opine on the appropriateness of their ritual process.  There are a variety of legitimate needs and purposes for animal sacrifice; heck, even in a Neoplatonic setting, Porphyry and Iamblichus are in agreement that it has its place, and for some people, it’s a valuable and useful part of worship and theurgy to make use it in the right circumstances (cf. this excellent paper by Eleonora Zeper on the subject).

Then, on the other hand, we have magical practices.  Rather than following the institutions of religion and their practices that are typically carried on for many generations, magical practices may overlap with religion, take on religion as an independent and asocial activity, or have no overlap whatsoever.  Because of the variety of these practices, it’s hard to say anything about them in general besides the fact that they exist: they’re in the PGM, they’re in the Picatrix, they’re in the Key of Solomon, they’re in the Book of St. Cyprian, they’re in pretty much any and every pre-modern tradition and source text we have (and a number of modern ones, too).  Ranging from frogs to falcons, swine to swans, there are endless purposes for a variety of particular animals, some of which require no more than some hair or a feather plucked from them, some which require blood but without killing the animal, which require their whole burning once sacrificed (as in the Royal Ring of Abrasax), some require torture and deforming (such as a variety of frog-based spells in the Book of St. Cyprian), and so forth.  If you’re able and willing to do such acts for the sake of ritual, do it; if not, don’t do it and move on with your life.

There’s also the case of substituting blood sacrifices with bloodless sacrifices.  I give one example of this in the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual, where instead of sacrificing seven birds, one sacrifices seven specially-made cakes that represent those birds.  Substitution of one ritual process with a similar-enough stand-in is a longstanding practice both ancient and less-ancient; we have records of Egyptian rituals where this was done, we know many folk practices across the world that once relied on animal sacrifices have come to use substitutions instead, and similar substitutions are made in particular traditions of Tibetan and some (but not all) other Vajrayana or Vedic practices, as well.  If done appropriately, done with the right intent, and done in a situation where a bloodless substitute is deemed acceptable by both the magician/priest and the forces they’re working with, then there’s no reason to worry for those who wish to perform a ritual but who are either unable or unwilling to perform the animal sacrifice for it: just use the substitute instead.  However, as Jason Miller points out in his recent post about animal sacrifice and using substitutes, this isn’t always possible: if the use of substitutes is not deemed necessary, whether because there’s a sincere need for a proper animal sacrifice or because the spirits reject bloodless substitutes, then you’re out of luck with substitutes.  I’ve heard stories of at least one modern ATR community that insisted on using bloodless sacrifices for their ceremonies until one of their gods came down in the flesh and demanded it of them, lest he take it from them by force; this type of thing can happen, though hopefully though less extreme measures such as through ceremonial divination and regular check-ins with the spirits you’re working with.

There’s also the possibility of reworking the format and structure of a ritual that calls for animal sacrifice to avoid using it entirely.  Consider that the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual given in PGM XII.201—269 has a parallel, closely-related consecration ceremony of a phylactery later on in PGM XIII.734—1077, where no animal sacrifice is required (though an offering of sweetbreads is called for along with bread, seasonal flowers, and pine-cones).  It is entirely feasible to use this alternate ritual procedure, or adopt and adapt the methodology of one with the prayers and purposes of the other, to come up with a blend of ritual praxis that can (but not necessarily promised to be) as effective as either.  Additionally, consider that one may try to avoid the use of sacrifices entirely and simply use the prayers of the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual in an otherwise usual, normally-conducted consecration ritual according to one’s regular process.  Is this always acceptable?  Not necessarily; the more you change the format or requirements or implements of a ritual, the further you get from being able to claim that you “did” the ritual, and the less likely you’ll end up with the expected results.  However, it is possible to come up with a new version of an old ritual, so long as you know what you’re doing.

This is a lot of digital ink to spill on something, but in short?  Animal sacrifice does not equate to “black magic”, and “black magic” is a ridiculous term that shouldn’t be used anyway.  If you find the practice distasteful, consider your own dietary habits, your own cultural heritage, your own biases about such practices, and whether you really think you know better than both age-old religious institutions and the gods and spirits they work with before you voice such opinions.  Don’t disparage the works and methods of others from a place of privilege, naiveté, and badly-conceived ethics; if you absolutely have to be judgmental about something, judge on the purpose and merits of the ritual.